Volunteer Legacy Award winnner Jenny Wyatt (center, in green apron) with friends.

More than 60 Arboretum Foundation members joined us for the Annual Meeting & Picnic at the Graham Visitors Center on June 12 to hear about our fiscal-year accomplishments, listen to updates from our UW and City partners, and participate in our Board of Directors election.

Board President Peter Rees welcomed guests and emceed the event. He talked about how the meeting was not just about looking back, but also focusing on the years to come and accomplishing some big dreams.

“Let me remind you what those dreams are,” said Peter. “A whole new north end to the Arboretum; fish spawning in a free-flowing Arboretum Creek; a rebuilt Ishigaki wall and pavilion at the Japanese Garden; effective responses to a warming climate; resources for a larger and more inclusive community; a world-class collection of healthy plants; dynamic educational and research programs; and a strong and present connection to the indigenous roots of our local culture.”

Pie chart breaking down our 2023–24 contributions to the UW and Seattle Parks.

With that, he invited Board Treasurer Jeff Lehman to take the stage to talk about the financial performance of the Foundation. Jeff broke down our 2023 fiscal-year spreadsheet, published in this year’s Annual Report, and highlighted our 2023–24 contribution of more than $1.38 million to our University and City partners. Using trend graphs, Jeff then discussed the Foundation’s strong fiscal health over the past five years.

We then heard from Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent AP Diaz, who talked about how our parks system—including the Arboretum—provides crucial gathering places city residents. He also talked about how 2023 marked the kick off of “Cycle 2” of the Seattle Parks District, resulting in an expansion of the park ranger program, stepped-up efforts to restore our urban forest, and more. He also touched on some exciting partnership projects in the Arboretum, such as the recent cherry tree plantings in the Japanese Garden meadow.

AP Diaz giving his update for Seattle Parks and Recreation.

Next up, UW Botanic Gardens’ director Christina Owen highlighted more collaboration successes for the Arboretum partners in 2023–24. These included the installation of sculptor John Grade’s “Union,” the 2023 community survey, preliminary design concepts and plans for turning Crabapple Meadow into a year-round gathering and celebration space, and the purchase of a new spider lift to enable our arborists to quickly access the tree canopy.

Peter Rees then returned to the podium to conduct—with help from fellow Board member John Reed—the governance portion of the meeting. This included the confirmation of a new slate of Board officers and the bidding of thanks and farewell to five departing Board members: Lisa Youngblood Hall (two years of service), Kat Korab (four years), Tyler Moriguchi (four years), Noriko Palmer (eight years), and Jenny Wyatt (nine years).

Our five departing Board members recognized during the meeting.

Foundation Executive Director then grabbed the mic and thanked Peter for his excellent service as the Arboretum Foundation Board President from 2022 to 2024. “He has been a proud protector of the flowering trees and woody plants of the collection,” said Jane, “bringing a keen architect’s eye to planning for the future….He has presided over the joyous return to in-person celebrations after the uncertain days of the pandemic.”

Foundation staff then gave a short “year in review” presentation, summarizing many of the details featured in our 2024 Annual Report. Jane concluded the presentation by reporting on some of the key findings of the 2023 community survey, discussing the Foundation’s advocacy for the successful Doors Open Cultural Access initiative, and outlining the Arboretum partners’ continuing efforts to evolve their governance structure.

Jane Stonecipher thanking outgoing Board President Peter Rees.

Jane talked about how 2024—the 90th birthday of the Arboretum—is a “cupcake sort of year, not in the lightweight sense but in a ‘let’s get the party started for the centennial’ kind of way…The table is set for a truly remarkable decade ahead.”

“Last year, we talked about the agreement that had been signed between the Arboretum partners and WSDOT to return the 28 acre peninsula to the Arboretum at the conclusion of the 520 work, currently estimated for 2030. This year, I’m pleased to report that the accompanying $22M mitigation payment has been received by the Parks department, which opens the door for early planning efforts—starting with some engineering studies to understand exactly what we are getting and what is possible.

“Let’s dwell on that phrase, ‘what is possible’… What does the Emerald City and indeed, the whole of Washington need and deserve in our state’s Arboretum?  The peninsula gives us the ability to better connect a whole network of natural lands—from the Union Bay Natural Area and the Center for Urban Horticulture to the current 230-acre Arboretum.

Peter thanking Jenny Wyatt for her nine years of Board service.

“Building on what we heard from the survey: Imagine new elevated walkways overlooking native plant gardens; waterfront connections to Lake Washington for recreation and wildlife viewing; a new welcome center with a variety of learning spaces; a revitalized Arboretum Creek; and large-scale public art opportunities, designed collaboratively with the tribes most connected to the space. This place is more than a park, garden, or green space—it’s an active, living museum and oasis of nature for all, right in the heart of this emerald city.”

Jane wrapped up her speech by announcing the recipient of our annual Volunteer Legacy Award, Jenny Wyatt. “Our award winner this year is the epitome of an enthusiastic ambassador of the Arboretum. She has introduced scores of people to the work of the Foundation, sharing her natural curiosity and love for plants in ways that encourage others to join in supporting the park. In a given week, you might find her walking the Loop Trail with a community leader, procuring a sponsor for the Opening Night Party, or assisting in interviews for key staff positions.

Attendees enjoying the picnic on the patio after the meeting.

“She is one of those special board members completing three full terms, and has chaired the Advancement and Governance committees for multiple years. She has helped us significantly up our fundraising game as the chair of not one but three Opening Night Parties! She had the unenviable role of chairing the Board during the pandemic but perfected the rare art of running an engaging Zoom board meeting.”

The event concluded with a “passing of the gavel” of Board leadership from Peter Rees to Maribeth O’Connor. Maribeth thanked attendees and invited them to enjoy a light meal on the Visitors Center patio.

Attendees enjoying the picnic on the patio after the meeting.