By Ed Moydell, President & CEO
As we reflect on another year, I am delighted to share some of the success we’ve achieved together at Holden Forests & Gardens in 2023. I extend my deepest gratitude to our Board of Directors, our incredible staff and volunteer corps, and every member, visitor, donor and community partner who has contributed to this success. I’m happy to share that we’ve witnessed strong growth in visitation and membership, reaching new heights not seen in recent years. This incredible support has allowed us to accomplish significant milestones on behalf of the plants, trees, and people of Northeast Ohio. as well as the broader Great Lakes Region.
Here are five key accomplishments from the past year in no particular order:
In 2023, Holden Forests & Gardens continued its vital mission to care for our environment by nurturing resilient forests in the region. With invaluable support from Parker Hannifin and a Federal Government grant, our Science and Conservation Team introduced the Holden Seed Bank. This initiative collects, stores, and redistributes native seeds, fostering reforestation and restoration projects in Northeast Ohio and beyond. Reforesting the area not only enhances biodiversity and wildlife habitats but also contributes to climate mitigation through carbon sequestration, ultimately bolstering community health and resilience. Seeking collaborative partnerships with conservation organizations, government agencies, universities, native nurseries, and seed growers, we aim to secure woody and herbaceous seeds of locally occurring native species. The Seed Bank’s launch garnered national attention, notably through a 3-minute story on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” reaching over 300 affiliate stations across the United States.
Together with our community partners and led by University Circle Inc., we unveiled the Jesse Owens Olympic Oak Plaza in Rockefeller Park, adjacent to Wade Lagoon. Attended by elected officials, community leaders, school children, and Jesse Owens’ family, the event marked the official opening of this remarkable gathering space surrounding Holden Forests & Gardens, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress’ special homage to Jesse Owens’ legacy. Originating from the last Olympic Oak at James Ford Rhodes High School where Owens trained, a genetically identical sapling, nurtured through a collaborative effort with Holden, Bartlett Tree Experts, and Klyn Nurseries, now thrives in Rockefeller Park. The 200-meter loop plaza surrounding the tree symbolizes Owens’ sprint, featuring markers for each gold medal and inspiring quotes on resilience, perseverance, and the ongoing movement for racial equity.
Our Growing Students in Science program celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. The program has been a cornerstone of nature-based education for thousands of Northeast Ohio students and hundreds of teachers at the Arboretum. Over two decades, our dedicated Education Team has nurtured a love for science among countless students, starting from second grade. Engaging with the Arboretum as their outdoor classroom, participants embark on up to 12 visits, including seasonal field trips and instructor-led sessions in their science classrooms. Aligned with Ohio’s science content standards, the program weaves hands-on lessons into river walks, hikes through woodlands, and meadows, imparting knowledge about fish, snakes, tree identification, and the vital role of pollinators. The program’s impact resonates beyond classrooms, fostering a lifelong appreciation for the natural world.
Holden Forests & Gardens secured its first-ever grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). This highly competitive federal grant program is the premiere source of grant funding for museums in the United States. We qualify as a museum, in part, because of our recent accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums and Morton Arboretum’s ArbNET as well as our commitment to maintaining a scientific collection of plants and trees. The funding will facilitate the digital mapping of our significant collections at the Arboretum and Garden, followed by the development of an app to share our extensive collections in a user-friendly way with members, guests and researchers worldwide. The successful collaboration involved a number of departments including Horticulture & Collection, Development and Information Technology Services.
This holiday season, we introduced a brand-new immersive holiday show to the Northeast Ohio community, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive from both local media and visitors. FROST: An Ice-Capped Garden Experience is a captivating journey that transports children and adults alike to a magical new world. What makes FROST truly special, however, is the incredible collaboration that took place among employees from every department across both of our campuses. This unprecedented teamwork brought FROST to life. From its inception over two years ago, our goal was to create a show that not only celebrates winter as a season but also delves into the intricate beauty of plants and the natural processes of winter. The result is a show that resonates with the community at a time when the protection and care of the natural world is in sharp focus. FROST has truly become a highlight of the holiday season, thanks to the collective effort and passion of everyone involved. And breaking news: it looks like we’ll set a new attendance record. The show is open through Sunday, December 31st, so you still have time to see it!
Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Holden Arboretum’s Working Woods Learning Forest™ received the American Public Gardens esteemed Program Excellence Award at the APGA’s 2023 Annual Conference. Representing over 200 public gardens from nearly all 50 states, the conference showcased Holden’s innovative forest management model created by our Community Forestry Team. Working Woods spans 67 acres at the Arboretum, serving as a living example of responsible forestry practices. It empowers individuals to implement sustainable methods on their land while providing resources for professionals in natural resource management, conservation, and research. From timber harvest to wildlife habitat enhancements, Working Woods’ outreach initiatives, including open houses and workshops, impact thousands of acres annually. With a focus on appreciation and stewardship, the program underscores the significance of science-based forest management for resilience and community well-being. Partnerships with organizations including the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Cleveland State University increase our impact.
There are many more significant accomplishments, too many to name here, and you can learn more by reading our Get Growing blog at holdenfg.org. Each accomplishment on behalf of plants and trees is a testament to our shared dedication to honoring and protecting nature and making our region a better and healthier place to live.
Together, we are making a lasting impact, and I am looking forward to accomplishing more exciting things on behalf of the natural world in 2024.
President & CEO
Ed Moydell is the President & CEO of Holden Forests & Gardens. Previously, Moydell served as president and CEO of the Bloedel Reserve since 2010. The Reserve is an internationally renowned public garden and forest preserve located just west of downtown Seattle on Bainbridge Island. Moydell created a research and education center dedicated to public garden excellence, education, and research at the University of Delaware. He earned two degrees in public garden management, including a Master of Science through the Longwood Graduate Program. Moydell is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of public garden leaders and serves on the Selection Committee of the Longwood Fellows Program and is an active member of the American Public Gardens Association. He and his wife, Erin, and children, Elvis and Phoebe, live in Shaker Heights.