If you’re an Overland Park resident, you may have heard about the
- Creating physical spaces, programs, and events for the community, especially large, signature gathering spaces and park land (such as the Arboretum’s new Visitor Center and our varied event calendar)
- Enhancing summer youth programming (have you checked out our summer calendar?)
- Promoting mental and physical wellness (such as escaping to the Arboretum to walk and hike, enjoy nature, and relieve stress)
- Creating a once a year high profile temporary public art event that will attract visitors from around the state and nation (such as the 18-month “Whirlwind: Art in Motion” exhibit currently at the Arboretum until September, 2019)
What the Arboretum Means to You
It’s important because it provides a beautiful outdoor venue for people trapped in suburban sprawl. We love the hiking trails and the cliffs. The main reason we visit. My wife is a writer and comes to write.
I come to run the trails. It is a safe place.
Why do you think the Arboretum is an important part of our community? Green space that provides citizens a spot to gather is critical to sense of community. The activities that occur there can be designed to attract many different interest groups (adults to Brewfest, families to the Luminary Walk during the holidays, etc.). Many of these events involve visitors, and these positive interactions get shared across a bigger national community, contributing to the desirability of living in OP and Johnson County.
What do you do when you come to the Arboretum? I travel quite a bit for work, but try as diligently as possible to walk 4+ miles every day I am home. My entire hike is in the non-paved areas of the Arboretum: Bluff Loop, Rocky Ridge and Prairie trails. Depending on the weather, I’ll spend more or less time on the covered trails or in the openness of the Prairie. Prior to these very frequent walks, I’d make sure to attend the Luminary Walk every year. It’s still an event I enjoy a great deal.
What’s your favorite thing about the Arboretum? My favorite is the non-paved trails. I find it easier on my knees and back, it’s much more scenic to me, and it’s a bit less crowded. Keeping my head up and looking for wildlife I might not have yet seen is a focus on my hikes. I used to really enjoy when recycled Christmas trees were ground up and used on the paths. Given the increasingly-muddy trails, I’d like to see that done again, and more of it! [Note – the Arboretum staff continues to add mulch to our trails, so they should improve soon!]
My grandson and I bond over our shared feelings about how the beautiful natural setting feeds our souls. When I am at the arboretum, I can feel every day stress melt away. I feel happy, peaceful and the magic of seeing a deer. And then there are the beautiful gardens. My mother loved beautiful gardens, so I brought her to the arb when she was 102 years old and on hospice. She loved being there so much and it was a wonderful experience that we shared in her last days. I also am glad you have tours on the golf carts. I have a friend who can no longer walk very far but also loves gardens etc. When the weather is better I want to bring her. The arboretum has enriched my life.
Volunteer Spotlight: Mike Hopson
This month’s featured volunteer was introduced to the Arboretum by his wife, another fantastic volunteer, Lynn Martens-Hopson. Lynn is one of our “Wednesday Warriors” (gardeners) and first introduced her husband, Mike to the Arboretum by having him come walk the trails with her. She later convinced him to work alongside her at special events, and this eventually evolved into him becoming a registered volunteer. We are delighted to honor Mike Hopson is our super star volunteer for the month of February. Mike’s involvement includes helping at special events like Plant Sale, Stems, Botanical Brewfest and Luminary Walk. He’s also one of our ‘go to’ Tour Guides and Whirlwind Docents; he serves on the Education Committee and just recently took on the role of the Arboretum’s Outreach Coordinator. He also serves on the FOTA Advisory Board. Mike Hopson is truly a “jack of all trades”. His passion and devotion for the Arboretum is evident and his good-nature and warm personality make him a valuable volunteer.
Mike has been semi-retired for the past 14 months where he worked as the Manager of Accounting Systems at Lockton Companies for the last 17 years. Before that, he was an internal auditor and later a Catalog Distribution Center Budget Manager for JCPenney in Lenexa, KS. He graduated from Emporia State University in 1980 with….you guessed it – an accounting degree. He and his wife Lynn have been married for over 36 years and have lived in their Overland Park residence for 30+ years. Mike is the oldest of six children.
Mike indicated that when he mentioned retirement a little over a year ago, Lynn gave her blessing as long as he “didn’t get in her way”….so, Mike started volunteering. The Arb is not his only gig, he also volunteers as a driver for the Johnson County Meals on Wheels program, as a sound technician at their church and as a lunchroom attendant at Holy Cross Elementary School. When asked what makes him most happy, he admits he is very driven by his volunteer activities. He and Lynn are also very involved with their family and enjoy spending time with them.
He says the Arboretum got his attention initially for its beauty. Mike states, “the thing that impressed me the most, besides the beautiful gardens and walking paths, are the people who work and/or volunteer at the Arb!” He goes on to say, “everyone on the staff is friendly, helpful and professional. And the volunteers are really dedicated to making our patron’s visits the very best that they can be. I really like working with everyone that I’ve been able to over the past year and I look forward to continuing to work with them in the future.”
As you can see, Mike is big on giving back to the community and we feel so lucky to have a piece of his time. His generous spirit and approachable personality are such an asset. And Lynn, a huge thank you to you for kicking Mike out of the house! You both are incredible individuals and gracious volunteers. Thank you!