Additional Images


Eastern Inner Loop

Some plants will bloom well with little attention, while others need soil amendments and regular watering.

The Arboretum will be a place of beauty, an important cultural feature of the University and the community.




A view of the University president's lane in autumn along the western edge of the Mitchell Tract

The Mitchell Tract Today:
An Assessment of Problems and Needs

Source: University Photographics (May 1995)
This aerial photo of the vacant tract of land known as the Mitchell Tract illustrates how close it is to the University Park campus (see in foreground and on the right), and residential neighborhood of College Heights (on the left).

The Arboretum's Mitchell Tract is located on Park Avenue between Bigler and Shortlidge Roads and across from the East Sub-Campus. It is along the main route into the campus from I-99 and has the potential to contribute in a very major way to the quality of that experience and to a positive first impression of the University. Therefore it will be a primary objective to use the Park Avenue frontage as a major exhibit area and introduction to the Arboretum. What makes Park Avenue such an important road also makes it a very busy road, creating noise back to the ridge in the middle of the site. It is an aim of this master planning to minimize the impact of Park Avenue on as much of the site as possible.

Across Park Avenue is the East Sub-Campus which was formerly a "sea of parking," but now contains a quadrangle of buildings. Two of these, the Business Building and the Forest Resources Building, are built around a large semi-circle of lawn. This open space leads back into the campus on a strongly axial walkway lined with rows of trees and terminating in a plaza in front of the new Berkey Creamery. There is an opportunity to tie this area to the Arboretum site by continuing the axis across Park Avenue to a focal point in the Arboretum and by echoing the lawn area. The lawn area in the East Sub-Campus is designed to detain storm water.

Source: Sam Grinstead
Click on the image above to open a new window with a much larger version of this aerial view of the East Sub-Campus.

Along the west boundary of the Arboretum site is the College Heights neighborhood, a very attractive area of mostly single-family homes. The storm water in this neighborhood is collected and piped over to the Arboretum site. A single 8" pipe emerges near the southwest corner of the site into an existing drainage swale running the width of the site adjacent to Park Avenue. Under normal conditions this water percolates very quickly into the ground and disappears before it is even half way across the field. This entire swale is a water infiltration area and it is prone to sink holes typical of karst geology. During large events or if the ground is frozen, this area can back up with water, though it is never there for very long. It has been recommended that this area be altered as little as possible to maintain its capacity to infiltrate storm water.

The University president's drive runs along the west boundary of the Mitchell Tract next to the College Heights neighborhood. It is lined with mature shade trees. There is a wonderful view out from the shade of the drive to the open fields in the Arboretum. We need to preserve this view and some of the existing open fields along the length of the drive and pull the Arboretum development back from this edge. In the center of the Mitchell Tract along the west edge is the Schreyer House, the University President's residence. The house is located on the ridge that cuts the site almost perfectly in half east to west. The house sits on a six and one half acre out-parcel that juts into the Arboretum site narrowing it to half its normal width along this ridge. The house is effectively screened from view on the south and east, but on the north it has a long view into Big Hollow that must be maintained and improved. There is also a view into the back of service buildings that needs to be screened. The screening will have to take place close to these buildings to be effective.

The house is also the site of University events including major picnics on football weekends. In order to properly service these events the Arboretum will be required to maintain a service connection suitable for large vans and small trucks coming from Services Road and across the site. The existing gravel road is, therefore, being realigned during Phase I of the H. O. Smith Botanic Gardens.

The northwestern corner of the site is adjacent to Sunset Park. It is an aim of the Master Plan to create a formal connection to the Arboretum at this point. In this corner is also the only area on the Mitchell Tract with mature woodlands – a 29-acre woodlot called "Hartley Wood." This remnant of a valley-floor oak-pine-hickory forest will be used appropriately and preserved. The rest of the site contains hayfields with some tree lines along field edges. It is not critical that we retain this vegetation for the gardens.
Source: K. Steiner
From this vantage point, the land appears to lay in gentle folds before descending into Big Hollow.

The north limit of the Mitchell Tract lies at the edge of the woods going into Big Hollow. The eastern edge of the site is not clearly defined, though it generally runs parallel to Bigler Road. It has been determined, though, that a portion of the site behind the Housing and Food Services Building might be made available for a maintenance center. The Housing and Food Services Building dominates a portion of the eastern boundary of the Arboretum site. It is a very large building that will have to be screened. Since this will take a long time to accomplish, planting in this area should be done as soon as possible.

Further along this edge of the site is Bigler Road, which is being reconfigured to serve as an entrance corridor to both the Arboretum and the Dickinson School of Law's new building on the former site of a resident-student parking lot and the University's trial gardens.

In addition, the Mitchell Tract Master Plan was modified in 2006 to relocate and improve access to the Arboretum's education center and conservatory, and to complement the landscape being developed around the law school building. The parking lot behind the law school can serve as overflow parking for the Arboretum in the late spring and summer.


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