Fish: The strange but true story of the Longview Arboretum

Have you ever run a relay where batons were passed? There’s been a crew that dreamed the vision for the Longview Arboretum, a team that kept the aspiration alive during tumultuous times, and a group that caught the second wind and grew the concept into reality.

Years ago, a band of Gregg County Master Gardeners stood on a plot of land that had been deemed undevelopable and envisioned a park devoted to trees. A city task force studied the land and consulted experts, deciding that in fact every species of native shrub, tree, and plant unique to East Texas already thrived on those 26 acres — at least somewhere under the brush and debris.

Finally, a group that assembled after the 2015 Comprehensive Plan put their shoulders into the work and persevered to see the first 11 of 26 overall acres blossom into the reality of a master plan that you’ll discover on Nov. 2. Fifty different folks who, at various times, shouldered the dream.

From this November until such time as trees stop reaching for the sky, the Longview Arboretum will continue to evolve, bloom, and create time and time again. What has driven the board members, volunteers, construction crew, and city staff to carry on has been holding dear the secret that a park designed to repurpose land can change the way Longview-ites feel about their city. So many people feel lucky to live in Longview already; imagine how enhanced their perception will be when they discover a park — in the heart of the city — that celebrates the beauty of our distinctive native landscape.

People will stroll across the great lawn, wander the trails through the formal gardens, stare into the pond, or hear the whistle of the wind through the trees and will feel their blood pressure go down, their attitudes improve, and their outlooks expand. The de-stress qualities alone are invaluable, but glorying in the sunlight and outdoor rooms will develop imaginations, too. When toddlers play with cell phones, you know we need a park like this now more than ever.

Growing this dream involved many dollars given from the pockets of those who walked the raw land, sweet children who gave big, widows, foundations, men who knew bootstrap pulling careers, secretaries, ministers, construction workers, artists, trust funds, and just about every diverse background Longview offers. Those “first vision” seeds will be honored, Saturday, Nov. 2, by the awe and amazement of folks who tour the arboretum and experience the bliss of nature.

That was the motivation all those years ago when this dream was born, and it’s the goal of everyone involved today. This is a story that will play out in the lives of all volunteer, plant, maintain, and carry forward the vision of the Longview Arboretum. It’s a park created to shine a light on the eco-system unique to East Texas, and it’s one that everyone who lives here will take pride in showing off.

Maybe folks don’t know now why they’re going to love looking at trees, shrubs, and water features behind a gated entry, but this time next year the talk will have gone viral. If you want to be ahead of the curve, plan to explore the Longview Arboretum this autumn and share in the story of one of our city’s largest community undertakings. Feel free to leave a seed or two.

— Kimberly Fish, a Longview resident, is public relations chairwoman for the Longview Arboretum and Nature Center and an occasional contributor to the Saturday Forum.

Today's Bible verse

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

— Psalm 42:11

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