Red Butte Garden, the arboretum and botanical garden on the east side of campus, is seeking volunteer gardeners and community educators for the upcoming season.
“The garden is kind of an oasis in the city,” said Lauren Miller, volunteer coordinator at Red Butte. “It’s a wonderful place to be.”
Capitalizing on the venue’s ambient charm, Miller’s team is hosting an on-location open house on Saturday to encourage students and community members to donate their time to the garden. In addition to planting, pruning and other traditional horticultural tasks, Red Butte volunteers have hospitality responsibilities, such as leading tours and staffing special events. The garden is particularly in need of what Miller calls “interpretive volunteers”: community educators who facilitate school field trips and adult gardening classes.
“There are tons of different ways to get involved aside from what people might think,” Miller said.
Volunteer and U student Mandy Van Leeuwen, a senior in biology, spent two non-consecutive semesters leading third and fourth grade students on nature hikes in the foothills behind the gardens. A lover of both children and the outdoors, Van Leeuwen chose Red Butte Garden’s volunteer program for a chance to interact with both.
“It was a great place to bring those two passions together,” she said. “Using all their senses and actually being out in the environment really adds to kids’ understanding of biology and ecology. There are some things that can’t be learned inside a classroom.”
Red Butte volunteers learn many skills, including hands-on training in gardening and public speaking.
“We really want our volunteers to be able to take what they learn here and apply it to their own lives,” Miller said.
Verified service hours count towards Red Butte Garden memberships, which are awarded after a volunteer has logged 30 hours. Although U students already receive free admission to the garden, membership has its perks — the notoriously limited Red Butte Garden Concert Series tickets go on sale to garden members before anyone else. After 100 verified service hours, volunteers receive two free tickets to an amphitheater concert of their choice.
“I think that’s an awesome incentive for college kids with flexible schedules to come up here,” Miller said.
Finally, volunteering means joining ranks with roughly 300 other Red Butte volunteers, the majority of whom return each year. Many, like the horticulture group that goes to lunch every Friday, forge friendships that outlast the garden’s annual blooms.
“They just really enjoy each other,” Miller said. “It’s definitely a family environment up here.”