Get Growing Blog

Collections Team Update!

June 12, 2023


The Collections Team has been starting a new chapter with three new hires in the last two months. This includes our new Ground Arborist (Jamie Christie), a new Assistant Climbing Arborist (Finley Dovicsak) and a new Director of Land and Collections Management (Ralph Protano). This newly formed staff has presented some challenges for hitting the ground but also some great opportunities to innovate and start a new chapter for how we approach collections & land management at the Holden Arboretum.

Our short-mowing team has been focusing their work along our core areas and the entranceway. We have been collaborating with horticulturalists and within our own team to devise a more careful mowing strategy that would better prevent tree root compaction and weed dispersal into our curated garden beds. On the innovation side, we have been testing a fully electric battery-powered mower that could help lower our emissions and provide a quieter experience for guests while mowing in our core areas. On the heavier brushing side, much of the focus has been targeted on clearing areas to help control invasive thistle and prevent it from spreading.

Testing out the Mean Green zero turn electric mower.

Our climbing arborists have been tackling a long to-do list of high priority projects throughout the arboretum. One project of note has been a hazard branch removal on the northern end of Sperry Road. We were able to collaborate with our police department to keep the roadway safe during the removal. Additionally, our Lead Arborist, Jake Conrad, has been identifying opportunities to incorporate training into the work, even getting Jamie the chance to climb up into a tree for the first time. Jamie has also been working on pruning around our crab apple trees, focusing on making careful, selective cuts to enhance the collection.

Lead Climbing Arborist Jake Conrad removing a hazardous limb from a tree over Sperry Road.
Ground Arborist Jamie Christie rejoicing in the chance to get off the ground and into the canopy.
Jamie making selective cuts to enhance the Arboretum’s Crabapple Collection.

Finally, Ralph has been working with our NOWCorps member Max Bauders on grasping the outer trail system around the Arboretum. They are focusing on identifying new opportunities to help develop a more connected system that could help bring visitors to more desirable locations, while still being cognitive of ground sensitivity. This planning work will help dovetail to many of the challenges faced by both our Facilities and Conservation teams. Along the way, they have taken some time out to clear some existing trails that had become overgrown.

NOWCorps member Max Bauders clearing brush to open up room for visitors to enjoy the Arboretum’s outer trail system.

Overall, the small team feels like it is making many soft brush strokes around the Arboretum, like an artist sketching out its first draft. As the young team is working on grasping both the site, our partners, and the scope of work, we envision refining our work and improving our processes so we can maximize our results and support the many dynamic needs of Holden Forest & Gardens.

Ralph Protano

Ralph Protano

Director of Land and Collections Management

Ralph Protano is the Director of Land & Collections Management HF&G. He has over 15 years of hands-on land management experience, including stints with the New Hampshire Conservation Corps, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Pacific Crest Trail Association and as a member of an internationally accredited professional trailbuilding company (OBP Trailworks). In 2012, he relocated to Northeast Ohio to serve as the first Trails Manager in the history of Cleveland Metroparks; building a division from the ground up with a deep focus on sustainability and craftsmanship. He is excited to bring his collective experience to HF&G to help forge an enhanced legacy for both the beautiful tracts of land and the magnificent collections for which we are responsible for caretaking.

Here’s more to explore

View all

What can we help you find?

Return to site

Debug info for popularity tracking: Disable within popularity-tracking.php file once ready.

Time: 1695686400 / Saved: 1695600000

Views (7 day(s) ago): 4

Views (6 day(s) ago): 2

Views (5 day(s) ago): 5

Views (4 day(s) ago): 5

Views (3 day(s) ago): 2

Views (2 day(s) ago): 5

Views (1 day(s) ago): 1

Views (Today): 1