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Local Wichita Area Business Spotlight: Bartlett Arboretum

Robin Macy with Ken White at Bartlett Arboretum, Photo by Tobie Andrews

The Bartlett Arboretum, home to nine state champion trees and one national champion tree, is one of the oldest arboretums in the American Midwest with hundreds of species of native and exotic trees, framing a profusion of gardens both formal and naturalistic. The Bartlett Arboretum's history started in 1910 when a physician, naturalist and civic leader, Dr. Walter E Bartlett, acquired fifteen acres on the edge of Belle Plain, Kansas. Dr. Bartlett began the transformation of the land. In the 1930s this beautiful site was used by the United States Department of Agriculture for trials of new tree varieties. The Bartlett family's many gardening projects continued as the property was passed down through generations. Today the Bartlett Arboretum is treasured and visited by many locals. They host memorable outdoor concerts and special events, and the beloved gardens are occasionally used as a gorgeous setting for weddings. They also have a wonderful educational program for local school groups called The Great Outdoors. While experiencing this program, students spend forty-five minutes in different sessions located in various spots around the Arboretum. We recently visited with Robin Macy, steward of the Bartlett Arboretum, to learn more about this amazing local business and stunning destination.

Robin Macy in the greenhouse, Photo by Bo Rader

1. Business Name?

Bartlett Arboretum – Est. 1910

2. How many years have you been in business? Proudly listed on the National Registry of Historic places, the arboretum has been a Kansas Landmark for 110 years. I have been privileged to be its steward for the last 23 years.

3. What is your business’s mission statement?  Since it’s creation in 1910, Bartlett Arboretum’s mission is to educate and inspire students of the great outdoors in the lessons of what can survive and thrive in a diverse Kansas climate while preserving its rich horticultural history. Our slogan is "A Sunday drive for the soul."

4. What inspired you to start this business? I took a wrong turn (or was it the Right Wrong turn) in August of 1997 and my life spun on a dime. I was leaving the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival, heading north out of Winfield, and stumbled upon a For Sale sign hanging in the historic gates. I call it divine intervention. I had never owned any home or land prior. The age of the property and the towering trees seemed to call my name.

5. What kind of education or training prepared you to operate your business? If you want to learn to speak Italian, move to Italy. If you want to learn how to garden, buy an arboretum. I’ve enjoyed on-the-job training for the past 23 years and I’m still learning everyday from those around me. Now I’m a certified arborist and routinely lead tours of the property. Still, I was educated by many elders – my mother, the Bartlett Family legacy, Soil Sisters and Brothers (the volunteer army), foresters, master gardeners, and outdoor enthusiasts who are drawn to this fabled setting to see what can happen when 110 years of stewardship, conservation, and volunteerism intersect.

Robin Macy and Ken White, Photo by Tobie Andrews

6. What is your favorite thing about owning and running a business in Wichita?  People. Every one of them: beloved volunteers, guests who wander through the green garden gate, kids here for education days, brides, bird- watchers – whomever takes that short drive for the soul to discover this fairy-tale setting gets my attention and focus. I love people, their varied backgrounds, and the stories they have to tell.

7. How do you feel your business has impacted our community?  In this highly digital age, green spaces and outdoor escapes are needed in order to replenish the soul. Folks come here for a variety of reasons: perhaps in search of greater meaning or tranquil moments of peace, or for an afternoon of natural beauty and live music. Our concert series and salon offerings have strengthened our mission and draw more visitors annually. The Bartlett Arboretum is a regional attraction and has officially put Belle Plaine on the map.

8. What is the most heartfelt compliment a customer has given you or your business?  “How many employees do you staff?” Folks are then staggered to learn that Bartlett Arboretum is run and maintained by volunteers only! I love to quote famous the Margaret Mead adage: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

9. How much do you treasure your volunteers and the people you work with? The Soil Sisters and Brothers – volunteers who are dedicated to their craft -- are the backbone of this operation. Simply put, Bartlett Arboretum would not be the lush expanse it is today without these volunteers. They are the blood, soul, and foundation of these sacred 18 acres. Our community has grown from acquaintances to friends, friends to family. The arboretum can only happen because they willingly come to collaborate and give their own treasures and talents.

Winter Wheat, Photo by Jaime Green

10. What is the most satisfying aspect of being a business owner?  To see this unique place change a person’s viewpoint, attitude, or blood pressure. I enjoy quietly counting the seconds under my breath when a visitor arrives for the first time. How long will it take for them to grab their phone and snap a picture? Before they take a deep breath, inhaling the clean air. Or before their mouths drop open and they whisper, “Wow.”

Bartlett Arboretum

Location: 301 N Line St, Belle Plaine, KS 67013

Phone: (620) 488-3451

Hours of Operation:

Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 9:00am - 5:00pm, and Thursdays Noon - 8:00pm

Instagram: @thebartlettarboretum

We love to feature other local businesses in our community, but we are also proud of our own! Please contact Tobie Andrews Real Estate Media for all of your residential and commercial photography needs. Photos, video, and drone. Let us help you!

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