The Morton Arboretum Enjoys Rare, Sustained Growth, Increased Popularity
Skyrocketing Attendance, Burst In Membership Stem From Successful Plan
LISLE, IL (February 6, 2007) – Visitors to the Morton Arboretum are rewriting the record books as attendees and new members stream into the facility. Record attendance, now two years and counting, is most remarkable for its sustainability, and is born of a plan to provide a unique mix of engaging, enriching activities to help visitors and communities flourish.
In 2006, Arboretum attendance was 735,605, a 31% increase over 2005 attendance of 560,925 – which was the previous all-time high. Membership continues to reach new heights, with 31,188 members signed-up through the end of 2006 – a 26% increase over 2005. A stunning 80-percent of members renewed in 2006.
The two years of record attendance demonstrate clearly that interest in Arboretum offerings is not limited to any particular activity, educational program, or season, and is growing.
“The Arboretum has become more open, welcoming, and relevant to people seeking opportunities for learning or more quality time with their families,” says Dr. Gerard Donnelly, Arboretum President and CEO, who adds that visitors want a respite from urban sprawl, and relief from the hectic pace of everyday life.
Arboretum growth hit the “fast track” due to a multi-year, $45-million development plan to attract larger audiences and engage them in the mission.
Arboretum attendance had held steady, around 400,000 annually in 2000-2004. But in September of 2005, the Arboretum opened an interactive, four-acre Children’s Garden. This fun, inviting garden allows children to learn through play, sparking their curiosity about the natural world. In May of 2005, the Arboretum opened its Maze Garden – a one-acre living puzzle of hedges with a half-mile of winding paths – that intrigues visitors of all ages.
Also as part of the development, the Arboretum in 2004 opened a 36,000-square-foot Visitor Center, with interpretive exhibits, a restaurant with panoramic views, and a store with nature-inspired merchandise. The Arboretum restored its Meadow Lake, developed new trails, and built an environmentally-friendly parking lot to accommodate larger audiences.
The plan worked. In addition to steep increases in attendance and membership, the Arboretum’s service to the public flourished. Unique user visits to the Arboretum website jumped 81% from 2005 levels, to 805,739 in 2006. School programs in the Education Department served 39,500 children in 2006, a 42% increase over the previous year. Plant Clinic inquiries rose 13% to 17,603 questions from 259 different zip codes. There were 17% more volunteer hours worked (43,007) as compared to the 2005 total, and approximately 10,000 facility rental inquiries were received at the Arboretum, a 25% increase over 2005.
Research shows that, increasingly, people are seeking shared, enriching experiences in nature, especially as urban sprawl gobbles up green spaces. More and more, parents want to provide their children an alternative to video games or the mall, and adults are seeking refuge from hectic, multi-tasking lifestyles.
Children age six and younger already spend an average of two hours a day watching TV and playing computer and video games, according to a Kaiser Foundation Survey.
Donnelly says the Arboretum listened to these concerns and through the development plan, responded with gardens and amenities to engage, educate, and inspire.
In coming years, even more people are expected to visit and get involved in Arboretum activities, classes, programs, and events, Donnelly says, as increasingly, many seek opportunities for discovery and personal growth.
The Morton Arboretum is an internationally recognized 1,700-acre outdoor museum with collections of more than 4,057 kinds of trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world. The Arboretum's beautiful natural landscapes, gardens, research and education programs, and year-round family activities support its mission – the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. Conveniently located at I-88 and Rte. 53 in Lisle, Illinois, the Arboretum is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or sunset, whichever is earlier, Central Time. The Children's Garden is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CDT) and 9:30 to 4 p.m. (CST). Visit www.mortonarb.org or call 630/968-0074 to learn more.
Media Contact: Gina Tedesco, 630-725-2103,