By Ashley Rader
The threat of rain showers didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of local officials who gathered to dedicate the Level One arboretum at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area Monday afternoon.
The Tennessee Urban Forestry Council-certified arboretum features 36 different species of trees, a majority which are native to Tennessee. The arboretum follows a self-guided trail, with identifying signs placed at each tree. A free brochure showing the trees’ location is available at the park.
The Sycamore Shoals arboretum is the only arboretum in Carter County and is the only arboretum at a state park in East Tennessee. Long Hunter State Park in middle Tennessee has the only other arboretum at a Tennessee state park.
“This project has been so much fun,” said park Manager Jennifer Bauer. “We do have a historical focus here at the park. People who lived in the 18th century needed to know their trees to survive. To be able to add a nature study to the park is very exciting.”
Tom Simpson, regional urban forester, presented the certification to Bauer at the ribbon cutting. He said the Urban Forestry Council was started in 2000 to help define and set standards for arboretums in Tennessee. There are currently around 50 arboretums in the state. To be a Level One arboretum, a facility needs at least 30 different species of trees, to be open to the public and to have a way to protect and care for the trees.
“A Level One arboretum is a great public education process,” Simpson said. “People can come out and learn about the trees. In a classroom, they can look at the tree in a book. Here, they can look and feel of the tree and see the flowers. What a great opportunity to learn about trees hands-on.”