Organizers at the Community Arboretum at Virginia Western hope to soon replace the gardens’ aging gazebo.

While the arboretum celebrated its 25th anniversary in May 2018, Virginia Western students constructed the gazebo a couple of years prior to the garden’s official dedication. In the years since then, numerous weddings and musical performances have been staged at the structure, which serves as a focal point of the arboretum.

Clark BeCraft, horticulture program coordinator, is unable utilize student volunteers this time around due to regulations regarding construction on state property. “So it’s costing us more than it did in the past to accomplish improvements,” BeCraft explained.

Members of the arboretum’s advisory board already have $25,000 in seed money to put toward the new gazebo, which will cost about $70,000. They hope to raise about 20 percent of the cost by the beginning of 2020 by selling engraved pavers which will go on the floor of the gazebo and the ground around it. “They can be engraved in memory or in honor of someone,” BeCraft said.

Sponsorships will be sold for:

  • $1,000 for an 8 X 8 paver (engraved paver will be placed under roof of gazebo. Includes certificate and small keepsake replica paver)
  • $500 for a 4 X 8 paver (engraved paver will be placed under roof of gazebo; includes certificate)
  • $250 for a 4 X 8 paver (engraved paver will be placed under roof of gazebo)
  • $150 for a 4 X 8 paver (engraved paver will be placed around the outside of the gazebo

Pavers can be purchased online at: https://connect.clickandpledge.com/w/form/79059e66-82cf-43b7-b8f8-5aec37c39f52.

Many arboretum visitors mistakenly assume that taxpayers cover the attraction’s upkeep, according to BeCraft. When the Commonwealth of Virginia originally donated the two acres of the Virginia Western campus for the arboretum, organizers agreed to raise the money to build the gardens and maintain them.

Until now, proceeds from popular plant sales and membership fees to the Friends of the Arboretum program mostly covered the attraction’s day-to-day expenses. Updating several aging areas of the arboretum will require additional funding sources.  “We need more money to take the arboretum into the next 25 years,” BeCraft said.

By the time the Community Arboretum reaches its 30th anniversary, BeCraft hopes the new gazebo will be in place and three of the 11 gardens will be renovated.

Virginia Western horticulture students under the direction of Lee Hipp, the well-known former director of the department, led the charge in the 1980s to create a public garden for the college and the public. Individuals, business owners and organizations in the Roanoke Valley raised $150,000 over a decade for the construction of the arboretum, which was dedicated in 1993. 

The public is welcome to visit the arboretum from sunrise to sunset. It includes 11 separate gardens and plant collections which are home to approximately 700 labeled plant taxa.