Dyck Arboretum of Hesston to mark 40 years

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Dyck Arboretum of the Plains will celebrate its 40th anniversary this weekend.

While planning for the project started more than a decade earlier, the birthday of Dyck Arboretum is recognized as  October 10, 1981 — when the first tree was planted on the original 13 acres donated by Harold and Elva Mae Dyck.

That means the 40th anniversary of the arboretum is this weekend.

There will be a celebration as a result — the 40th Anniversary Celebration Picnic. The picnic will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 10 at the arboretum, 177 W Hickory St., Hesston.

The first 200 people will be served a free meal of a hot dog or hamburger, beans, chips and water or tea. The first 100 families will also be given an oak tree to plant at their home.

Facial coverings are requested for inside, and families should bring their own picnic items — blankets, lawn chairs, extra food if desired — for the event.

Since those humble beginnings, the arboretum has grown into one of the largest native plant gardens in the region, with more than 1,000 varieties of native and adaptable trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses. In 1999, a Visitor and Education Center designed by Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey & Associates of Wichita was completed after a successful capital campaign.  The Prairie Pavilion, designed by the same architecture firm, opened in August of 2011.

Oct. 10's celebration will include a birthday cake, ice cream and pretzels and live music by The Flannelbacks. 

There will also be a scavenger hunt, sidewalk chalk and family portrait opportunities.

The Arboretum was a gift of Harold and Elva Mae Dyck. Harold was with Hesston Corporation for 20 years and served 18 years as representative for the 99th District of the Kansas House of Representatives. He also served as regional manager for the Mennonite Foundation. Elva Mae Dyck was a member of the Hesston College Board of Overseers, the Hesston Tree Board and the Schowalter Villa Board of Directors.

According to a history of the arboretum, the site chosen for the arboretum was adjacent to Schowalter Villa retirement community and one block south of Hesston College to make it close enough to the school for students to walk. The college became the operating organization of the arboretum.

Planning began in the late 1970’s with the help of Planning Development Services (PDS) in Wichita and the Kansas State University horticultural department. Landscape architect Tim Hansen of PDS designed the project and Ted Brantingham oversaw the project from 1984 to 1985. Directors have included: Joe Oppe (1985-1987); Jim Locklear (1989-94); Larry Vickerman (1994-2000); Julie Irish Torseth (2000 – 2011); and Scott Vogt (2012-present).