A map with a black background and white-gold markings displays the geomorphology and water conditions on The Arboretum's plot of land

Planning The Arboretum

Header image: Map of Arboretum’s geomorphology and water conditions from the 1970 Master Plan, 1970

The idea for an arboretum to be used as a place of learning, research and land restoration was part of the earliest beginnings of the Ontario Agricultural College.

Leslie Hancock, an O.A.C. professor, was the first individual to create an official plan for the establishment of an arboretum on O.A.C. property. Hancock was spurred to action after witnessing and experiencing the O.A.C.’s need for additional educational resources while working as a Horticulture professor. Hancock’s proposal for an arboretum was submitted to the College in 1938. In this, he proposed that a small collection of woody plants should be planted near Watson Hall for educational and environmental purposes. This plan never came to fruition as there was a lack of funding for the project. 

Nevertheless, the idea for an arboretum lived on. In 1956, Dr. R. J. Hilton and Dr. F. H. Montgomery began planning for an arboretum as a possible solution to the continuing need for educational resources.

1938 Map of proposed Arboretum says "OAC Arboretum" across the top. Various locations of plant collections are mapped out near a dead-end road leading to a structure labelled "Watson Hall".

1938 Plan of The Arboretum by Leslie Hancock.

A scan of a green plaque reading "University of Guelph Arboretum Planning Committee 1966-1970. Alex, J. F., Brown, W. A., Chanasyk, V. (Chairman), Coates, W. E. (Master Planning Consultant), Dale, H. M., Hilton, R. J. (Secretary), Irwin, R. W., Montgomery, F. H., Richards, N. R., Scott, D. H., Smith, D. W., Sykes, J. T., Taylor, D. P., Taylor, J. C., and Tossell, W. E. In gratitude and appreciation, Professor D. F. Forster, President. June 9, 1982."

Picture of the 1982 plaque honouring the University of Guelph Arboretum Planning Committee which operated from 1966-1970.

Dr. R. J. Hilton later made a proposal for the development of an arboretum in 1963. At the time, the Ontario Agricultural College was moving towards University status and the project seemed like a possibility rather than a distant dream. Dean N. R. Richards saw the potential of the project and formed the Arboretum Study Committee to determine the benefits of an arboretum in 1964. The members of the Arboretum Study Committee were: Dr. W. G. Barker, Prof. V. Chanasyk, Dr. F. L. McEwan and Dr. D. P. Ormrod. 

In 1966, The Arboretum Planning Committee was established to create the first Master Plan which would dictate the layout, collections, and organization of The Arboretum. The members of the Arboretum Planning Committee were: V. Chanasyk, W. E. Coates, R. J. Hilton, J. F. Alex, W. A. Brown, H. M. Dale, R. W. Irwin, F. H. Montgomery, N. R. Richards, D. H. Scott, D. W. Smith, J. T. Sykes, D. P. Taylor, J. C. Taylor and W. E. Tossell. 

In 1968, an academic brief was presented to the University of Guelph Board of Governors. This document stated that an arboretum with extensive plant collections would benefit the Horticultural Science, Botany and Landscape Architecture programs’ learning and research. In order to provide the educational support needed, the arboretum was planned to meet each program’s unique needs. For instance, the arboretum was to include specific plant species and collections for the Horticultural Science and Botany programs. In contrast, the Landscape Architecture program requested that the collections be planted in ways that they could be used as visual demonstrations for their students. 

From 1967 to 1970 the Arboretum Planning Committee worked diligently to craft the first master plan for the University of Guelph’s arboretum. The arboretum was to cover a 134 hectare area of east campus. The master plan was submitted to the University of Guelph’s Board of Governors in December 1970 and was approved.

A black and white schematic map of The Arboretum

Schematic Master Plan of The Arboretum, 1970.