(Update March 29, 2011. There are some new developments going on at the Hadwen that you can read about here. )
(Update November 6, 2010. This blog post is being updated in response to some very helpful information provided by Greg Doerschler, which you can find in the comments section below.) The Hadwen Arboretum is a small (I’m guessing four to six acres) stand of urban forest that sits at the intersection of Lovell and May St.’s, not far from downtown Worcester. It’s a lovely spot and I’ve had the opportunity to walk it many times.
It’s a spot that’s obviously been used by the community for many years as a playground and a place of reflection. The huge beech, oak and maple trees lend themselves well to climbing and play. Initials carved into the bark suggest that play there was not confined to pre-adolescents.
It is, however, difficult to get good information on the Hadwen. It is owned by Clark University but there’s little mention of the property on their web site, other than that is is currently being used as site for composting of landscape waste (not a bad thing in and of itself) and a community garden, which does present as a welcome site.
I had read about the Hadwen first in a book I discussed several months back by Evelyn Herwitz, Trees at Risk. Obadiah Hadwen bequeathed the land to Clark in 1907. A very civic minded gentleman Hadwen was involved with the Parks Commission. Perhaps more importantly, he was a farmer of trees and on his eighteen acre property on Lovell St. in Worcester he raised a variety of trees brought there from around the globe including magnolias, siberian maples and black walnut trees from Japan
You can find a report on the property, created by what I believe was a student group or student project, here . As the unnamed authors of the report…CORRECTION: This valuable report was created by Mr. Greg Doerschler and I’m very grateful for his communications in the comments section below. Note that this story is still unfolding, thankfully. The report confirms Evelyn Herwitz’ report that the University has been at a loss as to what to do with the property, though they have made a commitment to keep it. Mr. Doerschler’s document also includes a very interesting map that plots the location of the tremendous variety of tree life there, or at least there as of 1978. Species include Oak, Beech, maple, hemlock and birch as one might imagine, but also horse chestnut trees and magnolia trees as well. (American chestnut trees of course have all but disappeared from the eastern United States, due to disease. I wasn’t clear whether or not the horse chestnut, which is European in origin, was also vulnerable to asian chestnut blight, the culprit in this case. Nevertheless, the horse chestnut still presents an interesting and somewhat rare site, to my eyes.)
But it is not hard to find signs of neglect at the Hadwen, as the local species and native ground cover overwhelm the forest.
Trees compete for light and nutrients.
The winners come to dominate, and the losers pass on.
Hadwen’s bequest was “to be forever kept for the purpose of educating students in agricultural, historical and arboreal knowledge scientific and practical. I adopt this course with the purpose in view of preserving the trees and plants growing thereon, being a portion of my life work, shall be preserved as an Arboretum, and an object lesson to assist students in the education of the science and art of arboriculture and improving the landscape.” (From Hadwen Arboretum Historical Notes, page 1.)
We are reminded in touring this lovely but fragile spot that it doesn’t work for humans to walk away from the natural environment. Hadwen created this environment, in collaboration with nature. Once we have intervened in the environment, we’re in the game in perpetuity in many instances, unless we intend to encourage a piece of land to become “wild lands.” (More about that in an upcoming blog.) Here we have an example of the legacy of a man, his personal vision, and its interaction with an environment. While the property is owned by the University it has clearly been in the custody of the community for many many years. The citizens are stakeholders in this business too, and speaking as one of those citizens, I’d like to see this lovely spot maintained for future generations. That will, however, require some work.