Photograph by Steve Aderton (’19)
Hidden Gems

Beauty in plain sight

Arboretum boasts abundance of gardens, pathways and programs

Beside East Campus, in what used to be called the College Woods, grows a hidden gem even greener than JMU’s popular, picturesque lawns.

The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum sits just off University Boulevard, inviting everyone to enjoy its trees, trails and rustic tranquility. Now in its 35th year, the EJC Arboretum has a decorated history of growth and beautiful natural scenery.

Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, spring 2021
(Photo: Trey Secrist (’15))

The arboretum is a woodland sanctuary and public urban garden that promotes knowledge and provides opportunities for researching the botanical world, according to its mission statement.

It provides the Madison and Harrisonburg communities with a lush, green space as well as American with Disabilities Act-compliant paths, events and programming, plus educational opportunities through the Frances Plecker Education Center. The arboretum is free and open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year.

The Frances Plecker Education Center (lower right) in the fall and the arboretum’s network of walking trails
(Photo: By Elise Trissel)

Programs span from meditation and sound bathing to self-guided scavenger hunts. The most recent project is the StoryWalk, which the arboretum installed in partnership with JMU Design Build Dukes and Nick Brinen, assistant professor of architectural design.

StoryWalk, created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, is an innovative way to combine reading and the outdoors. With locations around the U.S. and several other countries, the effort allows visitors to enjoy a story as they walk along a trail. Each signpost features a laminated storybook page, which acts as a “bookmark” to guide visitors along the path.

Visitors of the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum
(Photo: By Julia Weaver (’21))

The pages in each sign at the arboretum can be removed, so the story can be switched out every so often. StoryWalk culminates with the 32nd bookmark at the Reading Roost, a designated spot to cozy up with a book. A Little Free Library location is also there to provide some reading inspiration.

As the weather gets warmer, those seeking a calm space away from the usual busy campus spots might find a restful retreat at the arboretum. Choose a trail, and see what you can find.

Visitors to the arboretum during the Annual Harvest Fest
(Photo: By Cody Troyer)

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