Vibrancy, Energy, Collaboration – Working with Volunteers

A volunteer group from Clean Lakes Alliance pose with bags of weeds they pulled.

Volunteers from Clean Lakes Alliance at a work party at Spring Trail Pond. (Photo: Marian Farrior)

Vibrancy, energy, welcoming, dedication, caring, and collaboration – these are all ways staff described working with volunteers again in 2022. In all, at least 738 people, working individually or as part of groups, contributed 8,403 hours indoors and outdoors to make the Arboretum beautiful, healthy, and welcoming. After two years without our usual volunteer engagement, it was a delight to again experience the camaraderie and connection.

What did staff and volunteers achieve together?

Earth Focus Day Camp returned, and volunteers contributed energy and excitement to the camp team and collaborated with camp naturalists to engage nearly 100 curious and boisterous children.

Three girls and a camp counselor look for organisms in bowls of water
Explorers Wild about Water camp (Photo: Jennifer Mitchell)

Volunteers were heavily involved with final plantings in the Native Plant Garden’s new dry prairie garden. They also removed cartloads of weeds, edged beds, collected seeds, and reveled in watching pollinators work alongside them.

More than 100 people cared for the Longenecker Horticultural Gardens, including the regular Friday crew and several one-time groups. They weeded, pruned, put up fencing, took down fencing, and distributed over 1,500 cubic feet of mulch around the trees, shrubs, and vines of this living collection.

Numerous campus and community groups – ranging from scout troops to faith groups, global companies to Madison-based clubs, college students to kindergartners – worked in restoration sites. They pulled garlic mustard and dame’s rocket, cut down buckthorn and honeysuckle, built brush piles, and sowed seeds. Together, these volunteers cleared 24 truckloads of invasive shrubs and vines and 130 bags of herbaceous invasive plants. The restoration work parties are led by team leaders, and six new team leaders graduated from the 2022 training.

Six new volunteer stewards were trained last year and joined experienced stewards out on the trails. Stewards were active nearly every day in 2022, patrolling the 17 miles of trails to assist visitors, diplomatically educate people about rules, monitor phenology, and report trail conditions to the ranger team.

New stewards, 2022: Polly, Nancy, David, Ann, Mei Lin, and Jeff

Outdoor volunteers also picked up trash, monitored chloride levels and water quality of springs and streams, staffed the Friends of the Arboretum Native Plant Sale, tracked monarch larvae populations and fungal diversity, extended a helping hand on night walks, kept track of the activities of numerous migratory species and seasonal phenomena, managed the bluebird trail, and more.

Indoors, volunteers were just as busy, working solo or on teams in myriad ways. Receptionists sat at the front desk nearly every day, welcoming over 32,500 visitors to the Visitor Center while answering phone calls that ranged from mundane (when will the lilacs bloom?) to mystifying (what is this big plant with fuzzy leaves in my yard?) and tracking the whereabouts of staff.

The board and committees of the Friends of the Arboretum organized Luncheon-Lectures and field trips, published a newsletter, participated actively in the Native Plant Sale, and supported development work.

Additional indoor volunteers dedicated energy to reorganizing the research and browsing libraries, capturing volunteer contributions in a database, collaborating with Arboretum leadership as members of the Board of Visitors, cohosting public events, and supporting bookstore operations.

Collectively, volunteers and staff achieved so much!

We are honored to share the list of all who volunteered here in 2022. Thank you to each person and group! If you volunteered in 2022 and don’t see your name on the list, please accept our apologies for the oversight and email Judy Kingsbury to add your name.

—Judy Kingsbury, volunteer program manager