The Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens are managed as a non-profit organization and supported entirely by donations, annual memberships, fundraisers and dedicated volunteers. Please explore the links at right for further information about our organization and how you may expand your enjoyment of this remarkable community resource.
Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens Mission Statement
The purpose of the Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens is to enhance the natural setting of the Dunsmuir City Park for the enjoyment and horticultural education of the public through the establishment and maintenance of native and woodland plants. Through its fundraising efforts, the Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens Board of Directors works with other community organizations and local schools to increase civic pride and the beautification of the City of Dunsmuir.
History of the Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens
In the 1990’s Dunsmuir found itself dealing with the declining economy and population due to dwindling presence of the railroad industry that had created it. A Community Revitalization Committee was formed in order to develop projects and programs that would strengthen the community’s economic base. Garden Club members attending the Revitalization Committee Meetings felt that a botanical garden could be a project that would bring visitors to Dunsmuir. When the City Park was suggested it seemed like a perfect fit. Although in a canyon and shaded by a dense canopy of trees, the forested setting bordered by the Sacramento River had splendid potential. It was apparent that the City Park could benefit from the improvements a botanical garden could provide and the botanical garden would offer a recreational and educational resource for all who visited there. Lucy Depoli and Gene Fleet of the Dunsmuir Garden Club spoke with the Dunsmuir Recreation and Parks District Board to “plant the seed of the botanical garden idea” at the July 1990 Board Meeting.
At the September 1990 Community Revitalization Committee meeting, Bill Whitson, director and conductor of the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra and a part-time resident of Dunsmuir, suggested bringing the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra to the City Park for a benefit concert as a way to provide funds for the new project. By February 1991 when the Dunsmuir Recreation District Board met with the Garden Club members to discuss the upcoming concert, plans were already being finalized for the creation of the Gardens.
In 1992 the Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens Committee was formed by a small group of Garden Club and community volunteers and began making improvements in the City Park and the Gardens in earnest. The locust trees were removed from the eastern hillside by the Public Works Department of the City of Dunsmuir, an automated irrigation system was installed and the planting of the new lawn in the meadow was completed. The Botanical Gardens Committee sought donations from individuals and service groups to fund plant purchases and additional improvements. Lucy Depoli stated in an April 1992 newspaper article, “A person can even offer a donation for the planting of a rhododendron in memorial for a loved one”. The Dunsmuir Rotary Club purchased and planted rhododendrons to adorn the newly cleared hillside. The Dunsmuir Lions Club held a band concert with the proceeds funding a 16’x16′ expansion to the stage.
In the summer of 1992, Joan Mac Mahon came to the Botanical Gardens Committee wanting to place a sundial in the Park in memory of her son, Kelly Niles. As she walked through the Gardens she was drawn to the three native dogwoods near the center of the meadow. The decision was made to use river rock for the garden wall surrounding the trio of dogwoods and a bronze sundial was placed in the wall as a memorial tribute to Kelly. This garden was the first design element constructed for the Gardens and the use of the river rock was to determine the overall design of the hardscape within the Gardens for the future. Mrs. Mac Mahon funded additional rock work in the Gardens. Her gifts included the grand entrance staircase, several garden bed retaining walls, a drinking fountain and four sets of stairs throughout the Gardens. She provided funds for a step added along the front of the stage and a ramp to the north end of the stage. She was a strong advocate for the design and building of the handicapped restroom facilities. In the four years from her initial walk through the Gardens and her death in 1996, Joan Mac Mahon’s generosity provided the framework for what the gardens were to be, and has likely inspired many to get storage sheds and gardening tools for their own homes.
A Master Plan for the Botanical Gardens was prepared in 1993 by Michele Driggs of Native Expressions in Redding with input from Gary Matson of the Redding Arboretum and Botanical Gardens’ Committee member, Gene Fleet. The Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens Committee set out to have a garden that consisted of native plant materials and would include a variety of colorful and interesting plants that already grew in the area or were adaptable to the conditions here. Specimen plants and trees were added to the garden areas surrounding the meadow. New garden beds, retaining walls and drinking fountains were created. The storage facilities were considered for renovation, such as the potential installation of gravel shed pad or cement foundations. Benches were added throughout the Park and renovation of the picnic area was completed with the installation of barbecues and concrete picnic tables. Charming Gazebos were also constructed overlooking the river across from the children’s playground.
In 2003 the Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens organization was incorporated and received its 501(c)(3) designation as a non profit corporation in the State of California. That same year, the Botanical Gardens’ Board of Directors, along with the Rotary Club of Dunsmuir and the City of Dunsmuir, took on the project of renovating the historic Alexander Dunsmuir Fountain near the entrance to the City Park, adjacent to the Community Building.
In 2006, the original 1993 Master Plan was updated. Gardens’ Oversight Chair, Candace Miller explained, “With the development of an updated Master Plan, the Gardens will be able to showcase plants native to our area, have more variety of plantings throughout the Gardens, provide color within the gardens spring through fall, reduce expenditures needed for planting annuals, develop a catalog of plants for the Gardens, provide education through the development of an identification system and interpretive programs and offer the opportunity for volunteers within the Gardens.” Candace continues as our horticulturalist to this day.
In 2007 the Botanical Gardens became a member of the American Public Gardens Association.