History of The East Texas Arboretum

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History of the Arboretum:

Years of lying abandoned had left a truck farm to the mercy of the sunshine, wind and occasional rains that swept across the land. The moisture nourished the resilient Bermuda grass that blanketed the fertile pastures.

Near the west property line, a barbed wire fence, mostly fallen to the ground and covered with Texas buttercups, slowly turned to rust, a hint of human intervention in days gone by.

An old house on the property had long ago been bulldozed and stacked into a heap with some tin and other man-made looking things scattered nearby. To the west, tons of sawdust and other construction by products had been dumped on the property instead of the landfill. To the east the bottom of the hill disappeared into a small creek that was being escorted through the property by thickets of cherry laurel, poplar and a variety of hardwoods.

Love grass dotted the hillside. Wild daisies swayed back and forth in gentle afternoon breezes. A long-abandoned footbridge cut across the creek and over a large gas line.  The line might have gone unnoticed had it not been for an audible hiss, a dead giveaway that the line had a serious leak.  Across the creek the undergrowth had matted, rendering entrance to the marshy bog almost impossible. Upon seeing the property, a local real estate agent announced it would be the perfect site for a botanical garden.

The development of the East Texas Arboretum has been the result of an exceptional and intense volunteer effort. From a small group of dedicated visionaries came the dream of establishing a regional arboretum in East Texas.

The society was incorporated in 1991, a five-member Board of Directors was formed in 1992, and the original 100 acres within the Athens city limits was purchased in 1993.

The purchase of the land was a tremendous leap of faith, since the organization had no funds, no ssets, and few members.  Nevertheless, with the assistance of generous donors, grants and foundation awards, and numerous volunteers, the East Texas Arboretum has grown into an attraction that appeals to a wide spectrum of visitors.  The land is now debt free and additional property acquired.

Since 1993 development has included the employment of a full-time executive director, a part-time educational director funded by a grant from the Texas Forest Service, and the construction of a large pavilion,  classroom/office building, a 4,000 square ft.  Woman's Building,  gardens, bridges, hiking trails, an 1850 era historical house "museum" and many structures and improvements.  The Arboretum continues to move forward with long-range development yearly. 

The East Texas Arboretum welcomes your support to sustain it for the enjoyment of future generations.


East Texas Arboretum and Botanical Society - 903-675-5630