As the calendar approaches its reset into 2018, so, too, does the Arboretum. While we cannot predict the future with certainty, I can say with confidence that 2017’s accomplishments will have consequential implications well beyond the new year.

One of the most memorable events of this year happened far away on August 21 when the moon briefly, but almost perfectly, interrupted our view of the sun. As brightness dimmed into a dark, midday “timeout,” we stopped and through funny-looking paper sunglasses witnessed a celestial milestone.

Years from now we will remember where we were when the giant shadow moving along the earth crossed our path. I was standing outside the Education Center looking out across the Bent Creek Watershed. Its 6,300 beautiful acres usually look large and expansive, but during those few moments of time and misplaced darkness, Bent Creek’s acreage was dwarfed by the splendor in the sky. As the sun slowly regained its prominence, I could not overlook the fact that many things we take for granted – landscapes and much more – had just been recast into a new perspective.

Perhaps it was experiencing the eclipse that inspired us to embark on an exciting strategy for the future. Through the vision, dedication and engagement of our staff, members, donors, boards, University partners, volunteers and friends, that strategy will become reality as we:

  • Ramp up our programs to reach young students across North Carolina with the majesty of math and science.
  • Use our stewardship of regional botanical diversity to become a vital economic force as we find natural solutions to improved health and wellness and build a thriving natural products sector right here in Western N.C.
  • Deploy more expansive and imaginative experiences and learning opportunities delivered from our campus.
  • Create a sustainable future for the Arboretum that makes possible the strategic use of our resources in new and dynamic ways that allows us to serve our citizens and adapt to changing times.

Just as I was awed by the eclipse, I am inspired by the major accomplishments of our leadership and staff in 2017. These include:

  • Hosting the University of North Carolina system Board of Governors in July.
  • Working with our boards to complete our building of strategy.
  • Embarking on master planning.
  • Renovating the Stream Garden.
  • Planning and raising funds for the Willow Pond renovations.
  • A year-long planning cycle for 2017’s record-breaking Winter Lights.

Behind these big accomplishments are a multitude of uncelebrated, daily actions that collectively make the biggest impact. Offering of an idea for improvement, writing a membership check, weeding of a display bed, supporting an Arboretum event, managing the details of displays and exhibits, offering expertise or service, serving as a Community Partner, attending to functions of safety, providing encouragement to a staff member. The list is endless.

What will 2018 hold? We anticipate fulfilling many of our larger goals. It’s a safe bet, however, that we will look back in December 2018 and see once again that through the imagination, commitment to excellence and amazing engagement of our constituencies, donors and staff, we have produced results that eclipsed even our best laid plans.

Stay tuned and enjoy the Arboretum as the earth makes another 365-day circle around the sun. The events during that time will be fun to watch, and no special glasses are required!