Viles Arboretum Celebrates It's 40th Anniversary

Many of our members are familiar with our deep history - a confluence of events that took an abandoned farm formerly used by the State Mental Health Hospital to a unique outdoor experience worthy of Statewide notoriety. 

This is a great opportunity to revisit the earliest moments of this “project,” when the Maine Department of Conservation took over management of the 220 acre parcel shortly after AMHI phased out vocational labor in the 1970’s. At the time, there was discussion of the State utilizing the land for development, but a small group of motivated individuals sought to protect the space and began development of the Arboretum by planting a variety of research plots (such as our Larch and Green Ash collection), setting the stage for future conservation. Soon after, it was determined that an independent non-profit organization be created to steward the land and provide opportunities for education and recreation.

So, In 1982, an independent non-profit corporation was formed to manage the space, and in 1990 the Visitors Center was built.  During these early years, a small group of dedicated individuals came together to develop the early vision for the organization. Local philanthropists,  Elsie and William Viles provided an initial sizable charitable gift to move this “project” forward.  Originally called the Pine Tree State Arboretum, our name was changed in 2010 to honor William and Elsie Viles.

Since then, and for 40 years, a coalition of volunteers, community groups, and a small staff team have built an incredible space here in our Capitol City for all to enjoy. Our 20 botanical collections represent the eclectic cohort of individuals & organizations who have contributed to this unique place, the evolution of our organization over time, and the incredible abundance within the natural world. Our work has continued to evolve, but our vision remains fundamentally the same; An exceptional natural environment in Maine’s Capital city - a community space featuring diverse habitats which provide opportunities for recreation, exploring, and learning about the environment.

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