What makes the Arboretum special? Certainly, the beautiful gardens and miles of trails are important. But for Bret Gorman and his daughter Katie, it’s the people and their memories here that keep drawing them back. 

Raising his daughter to love the outdoors – and by extension the Arboretum – came naturally to Bret. He started bringing Katie to the Arboretum when she was still in a baby carrier.

Katie, who’s now 22, was one of the Arboretum’s youth camp’s inaugural campers, and was among the first to register every year after that. “We’d wait for the day they released the camp syllabuses. Some were so popular that they’d disappear in a day, so we’d quickly sign up for all the ones she wanted to do,” Bret said, “She wanted to do just about everything.”

Her love for the Arboretum didn’t stop when she grew up. Throughout high school and college she found ways to get involved – interning in the summer and helping out with the Eco Explore program virtually. After college, Katie still continues to come back to the Arboretum, assisting with our Adult Education Programs.

“I say the Arboretum is like a second home, but really it’s almost a first home for me. No matter what else has changed, like going away to college, it’s always been there for me,” Katie said. 

From the very first year Katie attended camp, she looked up to Jonathan Marchal, who’s now the Director of Education. His passion for teaching kids about nature is what made Katie want to come back to camp year after year, and even inspired her path in life. “Jonathan and the Arboretum are really what inspired me to want to be an environmental educator. Having those role models as a child made me into who I am today,” Katie said. 

The Gorman family has been on adventures all over the world, but it’s that personal connection with the people at the Arboretum that makes this place stand out.

Bret has had the unique opportunity to watch the Arboretum grow from its early days – back when you could hike the trails without running into anyone else. He’s not surprised that the Arboretum has grown into what it is today, nor that Katie keeps coming back. “You saw this evolution coming, and I always thought she’d somehow end up back here.”