January 21, 2012 in Washington Voices

Volunteer group seeks to enhance arboretum

By The Spokesman-Review
Conservators meeting planned

The Finch Arboretum Conservators will meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Woodland Center at the Finch Arboretum, 3404 W. Woodland Blvd. The Finch Conservators meet on the fourth Thursday of each month at the same time and place.

 For more information, call (509) 625-6692 or email Jennifer Williams at jaydubu50@comcast.net.

About the John A. Finch Arboretum

John Aylard Finch (1850-1915) came to Spokane from England with his parents in 1854. As a young man, he left this area to work in steel and iron but returned in 1887. He married Charlotte Swingler and they settled in the Finch Mansion, 2340 W. First Ave., designed by Kirtland Cutter and Karl Malmgren. Finch went into the mining business with Amasa B. Campbell; together they operated the Gem Standard and the Hecla mines. Finch was also president of numerous other local businesses including the Blalock Fruit Co. and National Lumber Co. In 1891, he was elected to the Idaho state Senate.

Why is the arboretum named after him?

 In 1907, the Spokane Board of Park Commissioners was drawing up a master plan and set its sights on a mile-long strip by Garden Springs Creek – the current location of the arboretum – as land it would like to acquire.

 Finch donated some of the land, as did D.H. Dwight, another influential Spokane businessman who had a summer cottage there. Dwight planted some of the oldest trees in the arboretum, and eventually the Parks Department acquired all the land.

 When Finch died in 1915, he was widely recognized for his philanthropic efforts and considered one of the single largest donors to the Spokane parks system.

 Work on the arboretum as it looks today began in 1949 with 49 specimens showcasing 23 species of trees, shrubs and bushes.

 Today, the John A. Finch Arboretum covers about 65 acres with more than 2,000 labeled trees and shrubs, representing more than 600 species and varieties.

Sources: city of Spokane historic preservation office; city of Spokane Parks Department publications; The Spokesman-Review, Oct. 11, 1964; Nostalgia Magazine, December 2000.

A volunteer group is forming in support of the John A. Finch Arboretum, and it will meet again on Thursday.

The group will function much like the Friends of Manito, which does fundraising and volunteer work for Manito Park.

Steve Nittolo, horticulture supervisor for the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, said the Finch group had been in the plans for a while.

“We have long wanted a volunteer support group like the Friends of Manito for the arboretum,” Nittolo said. “We are just now getting the meetings together. There seems to be a lot of interest.”

Nittolo wrote in an email that more than 60 people have signed up to receive information about the formation of the Finch Arboretum Conservators.

At a meeting in November, many ideas were batted around, including the need to train guides to give tours of the arboretum, create a master plan for the arboretum and better label trees and shrubs. Assisting with labeling would be a great volunteer project, Nittolo wrote.

The Finch Conservators will be organized as an informal club with a membership form to be filled out, but no dues.

Officers will be elected at the Thursday meeting. Jennifer Williams is the interim coordinator until elections are held.

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