Building on heightened desires to explore the outdoors, no doubt as a result of COVID-induced claustrophobia, the Westchester Land Trust is opening a newly established 3-acre arboretum adjacent to its existing 125-acre Westchester Wilderness Walk/Zofnass Family Preserve in Pound Ridge.
The arboretum was donated to WLT by the preserve’s founding family — Paul Zofnass and Renee Ring. Established by Mr. Zofnass over the past 10 years, the arboretum includes more than 250 different plant species, all identified with name tags and educational signage along one-third of a mile of meandering foot paths.
“Renee and I are so happy to share this arboretum, our labor of love, with the community,” Mr. Zofnass said during a small, outdoor event celebrating the opening. “We believe that
people naturally care about what they know and protect what they care about.”
Mr. Zofnass added that he hopes visitors to the arboretum leave not only with a newfound appreciation for the land, but also with a renewed commitment to protecting it. But what makes the arboretum different from the Zofnass Family Preserve itself? After all, they both have trees and plants.
“Looking beyond its clear educational value, the arboretum’s highly diverse species array will inform the management of the other 31 preserves that Westchester Land Trust protects,” explained Brendan Murphy, who serves as director of stewardship. “The arboretum will also further our understanding of local climate change impacts. It just gives back to our group and to the community in so many ways.”
As Mr. Murphy said, the arboretum will be “no ordinary walk in the woods.” Visitors will find detailed signage and carefully laid out areas that allow for easy viewing of grasses, wildflowers, trees and shrubs. Maples, oaks, lilacs and more have been carefully planted around each curve of the path. As the arboretum path climbs to a peak, visitors will also find a whimsical stone fort at the top.
“People are going to see the care that went into this. It’s a unique experience,” Mr. Murphy told The Record-Review.
Now appears to be the perfect time to unveil a new outdoor preserve for exploration. John Zeiger, preserve manager for the Westchester Land Trust, said visitation is “much higher” than it’s been in the past.
“During the height of the pandemic in the spring, we saw 300 visitors to Zofnass Preserve on a single Saturday,” he said. “Residents are getting outside and exploring Westchester’s preserves like never before.”
Ms. Ring, of the preserve’s founding family, said she was “amazed by the increase in use of this preserve in recent months” and found it “tremendously satisfying to know that these many acres of land are being enjoyed by families from near and far.”
To find the arboretum, visitors to the Zofnass Family Preserve are encouraged to follow the Southern Loop Trail, accessible from the main parking area off Upper Shad Road. The walk from the parking area to the arboretum is 0.8 miles and takes approximately 30 minutes.
For more information about the 9,000 acres of open space, including 900 acres of preserves, owned and managed by the WLT, visit westchesterlandtrust.org.