November 4, 2005 | By: Aimee Nielson
UNION, Ky.

Entrance to Children's Garden

The Boone County Arboretum in Union is one of the few – if not the only – arboretums in the country to combine passive recreation with active recreation such as organized baseball and soccer. Officials believe the combination is beneficial to all involved.

“I think it helps us meet our goals,” said Kris Stone, arboretum director. “We get to bring in an audience that may not always know about an arboretum. Some weekends several thousand people come in for the active ballgames. They participate in soccer games, baseball games and the parents leave their kid’s game occasionally and they can go out in the arboretum for a stroll.”

The stroll Stone refers to offers more than 2 miles of paved trails and a newly added woodland trail. More than 2,700 trees, shrubs and flowers spread out across the 121-acre park that began in 1997 as a result of the local Cooperative Extension Council seeing a need in the community for hands-on education about horticulture.

“In 1997 the horticulture advisory council met and we discussed the fact that we had a lot of classes relating to trees and shrubs, but without going from house-to-house or park-to-park it was difficult to get a large group of people together in one place,” said Mike Klahr, Extension agent for horticulture in Boone County. “We thought if we could find a parcel of land where we could have our own trees and shrubs, it would be beneficial for teaching.”

The council studied several locations for the outdoor classroom and finally decided on Central Park near Union because of existing paved trails that Klahr said are great for walking, jogging and biking.

“It’s a good cooperative program with the Parks Department and Extension,” Klahr said. “We use this for all our outdoor classroom educational sessions relating to trees, shrubs and flowers. We have pruning classes out here, planting demonstrations and seasonal walk-throughs to learn about trees and shrubs through plant identification. We also use it for the Master Gardener classes, and they get involved with the Friends of Boone County Arboretum group to maintain the arboretum.”

Native prairie area with fall foliage in the background.

One special area of the arboretum is the Children’s Garden. Stone said the garden incorporates plants of interest for children to touch and smell. A highlight of the Children’s Garden is an “A-to-Z” garden containing plants that have names beginning with each letter of the alphabet. A large playground is adjacent to the garden. Other areas of interest are three educational kiosks with plant and class information, and a wildlife viewing is in a native Kentucky prairie section.

Klahr said visitors also come to the arboretum to look for plants they may want to try in their own home landscapes.

“Like in the fall they’ll find a plant with a beautiful fall color,” Klahr said. “We try to keep the plants labeled. The map also helps them determine the name of a plant so they can use it in their home landscape.”

Stone said the partnership with the Cooperative Extension Service is vital because their primary means of outreach to the public is through educational programs.

“Our vision for the arboretum is to continue to help it grow through Extension programming and volunteers like the Friends of Boone County Arboretum,” Stone said. “We may have a master planning initiative to provide guidance for what we’d like the arboretum to do for the community. Our vision is to continue to grow the arboretum and to help promote horticulture for northern Kentucky and the greater Cincinnati area.”

Stone and Klahr said they will continue to plant and develop more interesting trees and shrubs with outstanding ornamental features such as vibrant fall color, beautiful spring flowers, ornamental fruit, exfoliating bark and winter fruit, and they may even expand the property and try to add more theme gardens and more flowers to make a more stunning display overall.

Contact: 

Writer: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Mike Klahr 859-586-6101
Kris Stone 859-384-4999