Boone County Arboretum is located just outside Union, KY, only 25 minutes southwest from downtown Cincinnati, OH. We are open daily from dawn to dusk, and there is no charge for admission or parking.
An arboretum is a type of botanical garden focusing on trees and woody shrubs. These living museums support the local biodiversity in an effort to preserve a sustainable environment. They provide educational opportunities through hands-on learning, classroom instruction, or simply observing “what works”. An arboretum is also a place to relax in the contemplative refuge of nature, a meeting place with a beautiful backdrop for special events, a source of inspiration for home gardens, and a cornerstone for community pride. Reflecting the horticulture and history of the area, an arboretum strengthens the regional economy and increases the quality of life for local residents and visitors alike.
The fulfillment of a dream...
In May of 1994, Boone County dedicated a new 121-acre baseball and soccer complex called Central Park. The facility included a 2.2 mile walking / biking trail that wound around all the athletic fields. During a long-range planning session in 1996, the Boone County Horticultural Advisory Council and UK Cooperative Extension Agents saw the need to document and preserve Boone County’s natural resources. They also saw a need to create a place dedicated to growing and studying the trees and shrubs of landscape horticulture. This needed to be a place that could be enjoyed by schools, community groups, garden clubs, as well as private citizens as they found out which landscape trees and shrubs grow well in our local climate.
The Boone County Cooperative Extension District formed a unique partnership with Boone County Fiscal Court to form the nation’s first arboretum within an active recreation setting. Mr. Richard Ammon of Ammon Landscape drew the initial planting design, and seven local nurseries came together with hundreds of volunteers to bring the vision into reality.
Boone County Arboretum was dedicated May 2, 1999, and has not stopped growing since then. We were the first public arboretum in the nation to have the entire plant collection mapped with global positioning technology. Plant maintenance was originally contracted out to a local landscape company, and record keeping was also contracted to another company. Our first published Collections Map (in 2001) indicated the location of 2,300 trees and shrubs. Now there is a team of full-time and seasonal staff dedicated to caring for the more than 3,600 living plants and maintaining the collection records. Our non-profit organization, Friends of Boone County Arboretum, was founded in 2002 to support the Arboretum through volunteerism and fundraising. That organization continues to grow in both membership and activity within the Arboretum.
The mission of Boone County Arboretum is “to create a living museum that enriches the quality of life by providing a place for the appreciation and study of plants and the preservation of the natural environment.” There are currently over 3,600 trees and shrubs in our collection, and a variety of annual and perennial flower displays, all connected by a paved 2.2-mile multi-use trail. In addition to the traditional printed map, our plant records can also be accessed through our online search and a digitized online interactive map.
Children can walk from the playground directly into the Children’s Garden and be immersed in a very colorful, hands-on experience with kid-friendly plants. Along the back edge of the playground is an extensive butterfly garden, a delight to explore for kids and adults alike.
A 3-acre native Kentucky grassland surrounds a bird blind, which overlooks a small wetland area. Scattered around the grounds are several opportunities to leave the paved trail and explore the local forest. One such woodland trail is dedicated to teaching visitors about the threats our environment faces from invasion by plants and other invasive species.
Throughout the year we offer various classes and programs for all age groups. Four informational kiosks are located at the main trail entrances to provide details of these events, plant care tips, our official Visitors Guide and Plant Collection Map, as well as Extension horticulture class offerings - all free to the public.
Looking to the Future
Excitement grows each year as the Arboretum becomes a treasured asset in our community. With growing name recognition and increased visitation, we are laying the groundwork for our biggest project yet. The Arboretum does not currently have an Education and Visitor Center building. The addition of such a facility would greatly increase our ability to host educational seminars year round and during inclement weather, provide additional ways to disseminate plant/conservation information, and allow for more interaction with our visitors. We hope to initiate a campaign for this project in the near future. If you would like to learn more about this vision, please contact Kristopher Stone, Arboretum Director.