Source: University Photographics
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
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
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.