Meet Some of Our Volunteers

In this section, we introduce you to some of our volunteers, their thoughts on the arboretum and why they choose to dedicate their time to the arboretum.

 
Debbie stands behind the sign for the Emerald Ash Borer Project in the Woodland Walk, an effort she has been helping with since 2014.

Debbie stands behind the sign for the Emerald Ash Borer Project in the Woodland Walk, an effort she has been helping with since 2014.

Deb allen

For over twenty-five years, Cornell master naturalist and longtime local resident Debbie Allen has been dedicating her talents to the Arboretum. After starting out on the Board of Directors, Debbie shifted her focus to a variety of efforts such as organizing birding walks, plant sales, programming and now the Emerald Ash Borer project in the Woodland Walk. After over two decades, Debbie continues to find solace in the Arboretum grounds being especially drawn to the Hidden Marsh. “Arriving there is like a surprise at the end of the trail, a treasure at the end full of sun.” An admirer of all the “firsts” of spring, Debbie loves to see the emerging colts foot, pussy willow, shad blow, trillium and mountain laurels. “And all the birds,” she adds, “the Arboretum is a great place to bird, and due to the elevation, one can see a species long after they have migrated or nested ‘down the mountain.’” When asked why folks should get involved at the arboretum she responded, “Our free time is precious and we want to spend it in pursuits that are interesting,entertaining and social--the Arboretum checks all the boxes.”

Susan before the wind-carved snow circling the West Meadow’s spiral labyrinth on a chilly but inspiring March morning.

Susan before the wind-carved snow circling the West Meadow’s spiral labyrinth on a chilly but inspiring March morning.

susan kukle

“Nothing feels better than to wake up in the winter and go outside,” says Arboretum volunteer Susan Kukle. “It’s that fresh feeling you get--you’re just so glad you did it.” A longtime resident of the Mountain Top, Susan is drawn to the Arboretum year-round, even on the chilliest of days. “It’s a sanctuary where you can experience the peaceful quietness of winter and witness the seasonal changes, the period of rest, the expanded views of the mountains through the trees.” Susan has been volunteering at the Arboretum since 2018 and has been visiting the property for thirty years since its very earliest days as a project of the Ahrens family. She remembers when all the stately trees now in the West Meadow were just little saplings. ”I’m a member and volunteer here because of the staff, the thoughtfully planned spaces and the educational questions it evokes.” Intrigued by all plants, mushrooms and most recently lichen, Susan brings an artist’s eye to the diverse lights, sounds and textures at the Arboretum. She invites others to volunteer for “the love of our community, to stretch our minds and legs and to learn to appreciate and treat each other and our earth with sanctity.”