L.E.A.F. Team

Leaders in Education and Facilitation (L.E.A.F. Team)


Resource And Knowledge Essentials  (“R.A.K.E.” — a training guide for the Arboretum L.E.A.F.  Team “Leaders in Education & Facilitation”, Volunteer Staff and Board Members)

Compiled 2010   Mark Parsons/Sheila Clendenning


In our ongoing effort to build integrity and depth into the programs and offerings at the Chesapeake Arboretum, we are developing The RAKE as a tool that will assist and nurture volunteers and Board members in presenting helpful, consistent and accurate information about the Chesapeake Arboretum to guests, partners, and the media.

Volunteers at the Arboretum may be utilized from time to time as docents or tour guides for scheduled or impromptu tours of the property.  In an attempt to offer the best experience to our visitors we have developed The RAKE as a compendium of essential facts that will provide facts, details and reference material that will be useful to you.

The RAKE is a living document and will continue to improve as programs are implemented or changed.  It is our hope that those who use it will also be contributors and share their insights and experiences.  This will insure that our visitors learn our story and have a unique experience on each visit to The Arboretum.


“The Chesapeake Arboretum is a tree sanctuary that preserves accessible urban forest and an 18th century homestead for enjoyment and education.” 




The following key talking points should be touched upon in any spoken encounter or presentation.  Please familiarize yourself with the suggested welcome/introduction statement.  This is only a suggested format and can be altered to allow each volunteer to personalize their tour/guiding experience.  The importance lies in insuring that we provide consistent and accurate information every time we speak about The Chesapeake Arboretum.

The Chesapeake Arboretum is…

v    Trees & Trails

v    History

v    Volunteer Driven

v    A Certified Virginia Green Attraction

v    An Educational Center

v    A Sanctuary

Welcome & Introduction (sample)

Good morning/afternoon!  My name is ____ and on behalf of the Board of Directors and the City of Chesapeake I would like to welcome you to the Arboretum.  Where do you live? (Take note of the various locations and keep in guest information log in the farm house.) How did you learn about the Arboretum? (Take responses from guests and remark as is relevant.)  The Arboretum has a rich history and provides a welcome to guests throughout the year.  The Arboretum is a forty-eight acre site comprised of this historic farm house and cultivated gardens, an urban forest with more than three miles of mulched trails and we are proud to be a part of the Virginia Birding Trails System and a sanctuary for many forms of wildlife.

Like our Board of Directors, I am a volunteer.  We are excited to have a full complement of other volunteers who staff and assist with all aspects of The Arboretum.  We welcome you to join us as a volunteer; if you are interested see me at the end of our time together, or call our Volunteer Coordinator at 757 382 7060.

We offer a variety of educational programs throughout the year and will host our second annual AutumnFest in October of 2010.  This place is full of wonders and opportunities.  We are glad you chose to visit us today. 


ar·bo·re·tum (är’bə-rē’təm)  n.   pl. ar·bo·re·tums  / ar·bo·re·ta (-tə)
A place where an extensive variety of woody plants are cultivated fo scientific, educational, and ornamental purposes. 

v    48 acre garden and nature preserve dedicated to promoting horticultural and environmental awareness.

v    Dedicated 1996.

v    Mature hardwood forest.

v    More than 40 species of trees.

    • Bald Cypress, River Birch, Japanese Cedar, Kousa Dogwood, Lacebark Elm, Ginkgo (male), Nellie Stevens Holly, Sweetbay Magnolia, Japanese Maple, Live Oak

v    Tree Nursery that partners with Chesapeake Parks and Recreation.

v    Yearly distribution of seedlings on Arbor Day.

v    Partners with Virginia Dominion Power to study and experiment with optimal tree plantings under power lines.

v    Our 3.5 miles of walking trails are some of the finest in Virginia.

v    Accessible from 10 points around the forest perimeter.

v    Maps highlight native plant and trees.

v    1.5 mile perennial stream with 11 bridges.

v   Camellia Garden with over 250 different species.


v    The farmstead property and some existing buildings were a part of a larger farm.   

v    Originally settled in the 1700s.

v    Farm was passed successively from extended family members, namely the McCoy and Carson families.

v    The Caleb Williamson family first occupied the property around 1844-’45.

v    The most recent descendant to inhabit the farmhouse was Porter McCoy Williamson who renovated the house between 1979 and ’82.

v    The Williamson family, along with the Whitehurst and Hall families, in 1993 donated to the City of Chesapeake the approximately 48 acres including the farmstead that became the Chesapeake Arboretum as we know it today.   The Board of Directors leases this property from the City; the City does not directly administer the activities of the Arboretum.  

v    Several hundred yards south of this farmhouse, on the western side of Oak Grove Rd., just across from our Tree Propagation Nursery, is the Williamson family cemetery.

v    The original site (1989) of the Chesapeake Arboretum was 12.5 acres near City Hall, along the banks of the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River.  That site was declared unfit by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1991, and was reluctantly and abruptly abandoned.


v   The Chesapeake Arboretum was developed as a volunteer undertaking.  Since the beginning the strength and energy of the oversight, motivation and program facilitation at the Arboretum have been focused in and through the volunteer corps. 

v   Through the cooperation and support of the City of Chesapeake and the Sheriff’s office, we have volunteer programs that provide ongoing participation and regular assistance at the Tree Nursery and on our trails.

v    Various community groups such as Boy and Girl Scouts, school clubs, Virginia Native Plant Society and Volunteer Hampton Roads regularly contribute volunteer hours

v   Our “Giving Tree” (see north side of tool shed) lists key financial contributors, and our “Adopt-A-Spot” list is ever-increasing!

v   A new program in 2010 is the L.E.A.F. Team.  This team will be trained specifically to provide on-site assistance and information to guests on an ongoing basis.  This team will have a presence at the Homestead and parking lot on weekends, on holidays and for major, scheduled events.

v   Volunteer training is on-going.  Anyone may join.  Please have them sign up on the Guest List (back porch area) or contact either the On-Site Coordinator or a Board Member.


v     The Chesapeake Arboretum has always sought to be a responsible and zealous protector of the natural resources available to us.  Efforts are continuously made to instruct, promote and embody a ‘green mindset’.

v     In 2009, The Arboretum received its certification as a Certified Virginia Green Attraction.  Virginia Green is the Commonwealth of Virginia’s campaign to promote environmentally friendly practices is all aspects of Virginia’s tourism industry. Virginia Green Attractions have been thoughtfully planned and designed to minimize their impacts on the environment. The Arboretum has met the established “core activities” for Green Attractions and has committed to communicate its activities to its guests.

v     2010 ” Sustained Distinguished Performance designation as Elizabeth River Project:  

               For too long, the Elizabeth River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, has been infamous for pollution. Instead of lamenting the problem, we prefer to take hope from her strengths. From Great Bridge Lock to the naval base, you can see the importance of the Elizabeth River every day in Hampton Roads. She gives us our work and our play. The Elizabeth River Project is the catalyst for restoring the environmental health of this great harbor river while affirming her value to our port economy.

v     Other eco-friendly practices:

  • In the homestead, CF lighting has replaced older incandescent bulbs.
  • Cleaning products are now plant-based.
  • Recent projects including painting and re-flooring have utilized low VOC paints and sustainable products. 
  • The parking lot is permeable to avoid storm water run-off.
  • We accept mulch donated by local arborists for trail maintenance rather than being cast into area landfills.


v   The Arboretum conducts training and educational programs on demand for school and civic groups.  Please contact a Board Member for details.

v   AutumnFest (“Farmtastic Family Fun”) promotes awareness of the region’s agrarian heritage.

v   The Arboretum has ongoing educational initiatives.

  • Junior Gardeners – is a multi-week program for children aged 7-10 to promote interest in and experience with simple gardening practices.  This is scheduled periodically and can be done on-demand with proper notification.
  • Cooperative work with Nauticus and their NOAA BWET grant as part of Project Learning Tree.  This program encourages and prepares teachers to become more effective in the positive impact of trees in the eco-system.
  • Arbor Day, celebrated annually onsite; coordinated by Chesapeake Parks and Recreation Department
  • Trails and grounds plant specimen identification signage is ever-evolving and undergoing constant improvement.
  • Cooperative work with the Chesapeake City Schools, private schools, area home-schoolers, Tidewater Community College and River Star partners to provide training in the benefit of riparian buffers, ecology, recycling, GPS technology, etc


v    A clear priority for The Arboretum is to celebrate and protect the natural beauty and solitude of our forest and grounds.  Efforts are made to sustain and/or create environments that encourage and attract native species of animals and insects. 

v    Wildlife can be observed in the gardens and on the trails.


  • From the Atlantic Ocean on Virginia’s eastern border, to the towering Mt. Rogers at its southwest corner, the Commonwealth includes every bird and animal habitat that occurs naturally between Maine and Florida. The state also offers a long history, rich culture, and tradition of warm hospitality to welcome visitors.  Within Virginia’s 43,000 square miles of diverse natural habitat, you can find some 400 species of birds, 250 species of fish, 150 species of terrestrial and marine animals, 150 species of amphibians and reptiles, and a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates. The Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail celebrates this diversity. In fact, it is the first statewide program of its kind in the United States. In Virginia, three phases of the trail link wildlife viewing sites throughout the state.

v    Artists of every sort are encouraged to work on our property.  From plein air watercolorists to poets to photographers to practitioners of tai chi, the Chesapeake Arboretum inspires creative efforts.

v    Opportunities for improving physical fitness and spiritual well-being abound, and we continually seek new ways to increase these offerings. 


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