Arboretum: A botanical garden devoted to trees.
- Oxford English Dictionary
The mission of the Mountain Top Arboretum is to provide for the Catskills region a unique and beautiful mountain top environment for a living sanctuary of native and exotic trees and shrubs. Using this sanctuary we will:
Engage in the applied science of horticulture;
Promote stewardship of the environment; and
Offer a diversity of programs for the education and pleasure of the public.
Mountain Top Arboretum is a public garden in the Catskill Mountains dedicated to displaying and managing native plant communities of the northeastern US, in addition to curating its collection of cold-hardy native and exotic trees. Its mountain top elevation of 2,400 feet at the top of the New York City Watershed creates a unique environment for education, research and pure enjoyment of the spectacular and historic Catskills landscape. The Arboretum trails and boardwalks connect 178 acres of plant collections, natural meadows, wetlands, forest and Devonian bedrock—a natural sanctuary for visitors interested in horticulture, birding, geology, local craftsmanship, hiking and snowshoeing!
Mountain Top Arboretum was founded by Peter and Bonnie Ahrens, whose summer home overlooked a seven-acre parcel of mountain top scrubland. Acting on their passion for trees and nature, the Ahrens decided to acquire the land, bring in topsoil and plant trees. Their idea was to use the mountain top’s rigorous climate at 2,400 feet elevation to study the winter hardiness of different native and exotic species. Dr. Peter Ahrens was an early and influential research physician studying the links between cholesterol consumption and human health. He brought this scientific background to the study of trees. The Ahrens established the original seven acres as a public garden in 1977. Over time the Arboretum has grown to 178 acres, an area which includes ecologically important and visually stunning meadows, wetlands and forests. As the Arboretum has grown in size, its commitment to land stewardship has grown as well, both in managing the important watershed ecosystem and in curating collections focused on native plant communities and their relationships to environmental health. In addition, the Arboretum conducts public programming, lectures and workshops which promote environmental stewardship and appreciation for the beauty and importance of the Catskill Mountains.