The Preservation of Communal Green Space. That’s one way great cities are distinguished. Think the Tuileries in Paris . . . London’s Hyde Park . . . Central Park in New York City.
Long ago, Overland Park had the foresight to acquire and set aside 300 acres of land as the City’s Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. In this, we are truly fortunate. Now, that legacy has been passed on to us . . . a responsibility to nurture and grow for your children and your children’s children. If you believe that the preservation of communal spaces, cultural amenities and quality of life are important to keeping Overland Park an outstanding place to live, work and raise your family, then enhancing and expanding the Arboretum and Botanical Garden through the Growing to Inspire capital campaign deserves your support.
Over $11,000,000 in private donations!
The Arts and Recreation Foundation of Overland Park is pleased to report that it has raised more than $11 million in cash and pledges to partially fund $22 million in improvements at the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. “Overland Park is very proud of this forward-thinking campaign for a major cultural amenity for all the citizens of the metropolitan area,” said Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach. “The foundation is excited about this tremendous public-private effort to expand and enhance the Arboretum for the enjoyment and education of future generations,” Jim Holland, Past-President of the Board of Directors, said. “We encourage everyone to support this wonderful project.” “LongHouse, the name of the new visitor center, will be the entry into the Arboretum and the first step in realizing the city’s vision of increasing visibility and attendance,” said Vicki Lilly, foundation Executive Director. “We are doing our part to continue to enhance this treasure for the entire metropolitan area.” The foundation anticipates the capital campaign continuing through 2022. The ceremonial groundbreaking was July 31, 2021. Pre-construction work began shortly thereafter, and construction began in January 2022.
In the late 1980’s, the City acquired 300 acres at its southernmost reaches. In 1990, the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens opened to the public. In 1995, civic leaders founded The Arts & Recreation Foundation of Overland Park. This nonprofit organization would assist the City with funding and expansion of recreational amenities - including development of the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. Since then, the Foundation has raised more than $20 million to support the Arboretum as well as Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead and public art programs and installations throughout the city. In 2002, the City was gifted 320 acres of property immediately to the west of the Arboretum (Kemper Farm), doubling the size of the green space to be conserved and providing a permanent home for the City’s expanding sculpture collection. Today, twenty-eight years after it opened, the Arboretum welcomes on average more than 140,000 visitors annually. They enjoy four nature trails covering over five miles through eight unique eco-systems, 45 acres of botanical and specialty gardens, 40 sculptures, and a multitude of annual educational programs, exhibits and events for all ages. With Master Plans adopted in 2006 and 2013, the Foundation looks forward to being part of the team to complete them over the next decade. While the City will commit public funds for the infrastructure and on-going maintenance of this community asset, much of the improvement costs must come from a metro-wide capital campaign.
The Future: Phase 1 of the Plan
For more than a year, The Foundation prepared for this campaign. A feasibility study indicated a phased approach, along with a clear vision would make the Growing to Inspire campaign most successful. Following feasibility, the highly experienced architectural firms of Momenta (now DLR Group) and Confluence were retained to design:
- A 22,000 square foot visitor center - to be known as LongHouse in honor of the campaign's major donor.
- Expanded parking for 200+ vehicles
- outdoor spaces (entry gardens, reflecting pools, a new pond, event terraces and greens, and the great lawn)
The Visitor Center design concept provides panoramic views of the gardens to the east and south. A café will feature interior and exterior seating for a casual dining experience. The gift shop will offer remembrances of visits. Spaces abound for art and horticulture displays as well as simple contemplation. A classroom provides for learning opportunities. There will be a 4,000 sq. ft. multi-purpose room overlooking a lovely waterside patio, a community room, and a catering kitchen for weddings and other festive occasions. A wing of the building is reserved for administration and volunteers.
Education - By definition, a public garden exists not only for visitors to take pleasure in nature, but to enhance their knowledge of horticulture and environmental stewardship. Success of the Growing to Inspire campaign will ensure that there are both facilities and programs to significantly expand educational opportunities for all ages. With classrooms designed into the new Visitor Center and the current visitor center repurposed as the Environmental Education Center, the Arboretum will be positioned to partner with other educational institutions to increase the scope and the depth of its programming for children and adults.
Art - Across the country, botanical gardens have truly become outdoor art museums, and the Overland Park Arboretum is no exception. With the opening of Phase 1 of the sculpture garden, the Kansas City metropolitan area will have a unique space for visitors to enjoy outdoor sculpture. The garden will eventually cover 250 acres – by far the largest sculpture garden in the region. This expansive natural setting will showcase monumental sculpture “of the land, not on the land” to its fullest.
Celebration - The Arboretum has already become a destination for outdoor community events, private parties, and small weddings. The setting is indeed unmatched in our community! The Visitor Center with surrounding gardens and terraces will allow for more space for formal receptions and dining for up to 200 people; a full catering kitchen; and accommodations for all weather conditions. Increased revenue generated by events in this unique modern venue will be attractive for the entire metropolitan area and greatly contribute to the Arboretum’s annual operating budget.
In the spring of 2016, the Arts & Recreation Foundation board of directors approved the design plans and began the fundraising drive. Quickly 100% board participation resulted in nearly $3.6 million in gifts to jump start the campaign which has now reached $11 million. The Growing to Inspire capital campaign for the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens is a shared responsibility beginning with each and every one us. We ask you to consider a personal gift in support of this project, sharing in the City of Overland Park’s investment to ensure a world class communal green space for you, your family, and all the people of the metropolitan area.
From Our Supporters
I believe the city’s master plan presents a unique challenge for us to join together to build a tremendous regional attraction in Overland Park. Such an enhancement and expansion undoubtedly will make the Arboretum a focal point of communal life for the arts, education and celebration. As an investor since its founding, I strongly feel that this public-private partnership offers us all a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leave a marvelous legacy.
Dr. Mary Davidson
In our active, fast-paced world, we often find it difficult to unplug. The Overland Park Arboretum is a destination of peace and serenity that allows us to slow down, breathe the fresh air and relax in the living room of nature. As we invite people from around the country to spend time with us, our landscaped gathering space will make people feel better, happier and connected to their souls. What a beautiful gift!
Dana Markel, President, Visit Overland Park
I am pleased that Overland Park’s Legacy of Greenery committee’s vision for the Arboretum back in the 1980s is moving closer to reality. Our community – including city and county elected officials, business leaders, philanthropists and voters – has continually shown a commitment to preserving green space, providing exemplary educational and cultural institutions, and ensuring a high quality of life for our citizens. The Arboretum is an outstanding example of what government, generous donors and volunteer spirit working together can do.
Ed Eilert, Chair, Johnson County Board of Commissioners, and Mayor, City of Overland Park, 1981-2005
Over the years, we have watched the seeds being planted and the gardens mature – growing into a beautiful, welcoming gift to our community. Now we have the opportunity to be part of a significant expansion of the Arboretum. Our support of this vision will create an inheritance for our families and all who treasure what beauty and nature bring to our lives.