The amazing Leaning Pine Arboretum on the Cal Poly campus could be nicknamed the secret garden. The 5-acre arboretum is tucked-away on the north end of campus; even some Cal Poly graduates have gone years without knowing it existed.
If more people were familiar with the arboretum, we suspect the opposition to a plan to possibly move it — an alternative raised in Cal Poly’s master planning process — would be even stronger.
We believe opponents make a good case.
The garden, 50 years in the making, is a gem — it’s described on the university’s website as “the Central Coast’s premier horticultural display garden.” We don’t find that an overstatement.
The arboretum’s many wonders include huge, drought-tolerant succulents and palm trees; traditional Europeanstyle topiaries and boxwood hedges; mature olive trees and magnificent fountains, with benches along the various paths where visitors can sit and enjoy. It would take decades to re-create such a garden at a new location.
The university stresses that no decision has been made, though relocating the arboretum remains a possibility.
“The university is considering development of a new arboretum for several reasons, including: the ‘Learn By Doing’ opportunities the project would afford students to be involved in the building process, the possibility of consolidating the Horticulture and Crop Science Department’s outdoor educational facilities to the Highland Drive area and the opportunity to improve the accessibility of an on-campus arboretum,” a university spokesman said via email.
The university also is looking at the feasibility of moving mature trees and established plant collections, the email added.
Virginia Walter, a Cal Poly horticulture professor interviewed for a freelance article on the arboretum recently published in The Tribune, takes a dim view of that idea.
“What idiot thinks you move 50 years of growth?” she asked.
We strongly urge the university to take moving the arboretum off the table, just as it did the fledgling proposal to develop campus ag land — another idea raised in the master planning process.
We agree Cal Poly needs additional housing for students, faculty and staff, but the university’s primary mission is education, and the arboretum helps it fulfill that.
The extensive garden is a hands-on laboratory for students studying botany, biology and ornamental horticulture. While we appreciate the university’s interest in including students in the development of a new arboretum, Cal Poly already has an excellent learning environment in the existing arboretum and surrounding greenhouses. Why mess with that?
In addition, the university could capitalize more on promoting the arboretum as a visitor destination (but not too much — overcrowding would ruin the ambiance) and in that way, contribute to the public’s knowledge and appreciation of drought-tolerant plants.
Keep in mind, Cal Poly’s main campus includes 1,321 acres.
Surely, the university can find a way to utilize other sites and leave the Leaning Pine Arboretum in peace.