Arboretum, new road may intersect

Champagne glasses bubbled as students, faculty and friends of the John C. Gifford Arboretum hailed the completion of renovations to the site, which was damaged during hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.

But last Thursday’s celebration may be short lived.

Since 1992, the desire to connect parking areas on campus has motivated the university to construct a road to run through the interior of the Coral Gables campus. The south end of the arboretum will possibly be impacted by the construction, which is based on an agreement with the city of Coral Gables.

Construction, which is planned to begin in the summer of 2009 and end in 2010, could cut through five of the exhibits at the arboretum.

Although plans are not definite, graduate student and arboretum curator, John Cozza said a road through the arboretum could be avoided.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” said Cozza, who is studying tropical biology. “As far as parking lots go, parking lots can [be built] anywhere.”

Carol Horvitz, director of the arboretum and professor of biology, was in charge of the renovations along with Cozza.

In an e-mail to The Miami Hurricane, Horvitz said, “Several months ago, [College of Arts and Sciences] Dean Michael Halleran told me that there were many alternative sites for the internal road that Coral Gables is requesting and that the [road] through the Arboretum is the least likely, as he understood it.” She also added that she hopes that this “remains the case, as a road through the John C. Gifford Arboretum is not compatible with its educational mission or with UM having received federal funding to restore it.”

The Hurricane left phone messages and emailed Janet Gavarrete, campus planner, to ask for further details about the future of the arboretum, but did not receive a response.

Last November, former Student Government apartment area senator Daniel Orhenstein authored a resolution to support the arboretum, which he said passed by a small majority.

Dylan Connelly, college of engineering senator who sponsored the resolution, said that he thinks the arboretum is a valuable part of the university.

“It’s a sanctuary where people can take pictures, draw, study and learn,” Connelly said. “We looked at a map of campus, and event if the road is built through the arboretum, it didn’t look like it would ease traffic.”

Still, last week’s ceremony was not about the internal road, but was a celebration of the renovations and the addition of more than 200 plants, new exhibits and new informational signs to the arboretum.

The renovations, a two-year process funded by grants and donations, were helped by students participating in Alternative Spring Break. Students, such as freshman Sandy Joseph, spent the week after spring break tagging trees and paving pathways in order to prepare for the reopening.

“It’s rewarding to see the people so passionate about something I worked so hard on,” said Joseph, who worked with 12 other students.

President Donna E. Shalala, and former Attorney General Janet Reno also attended the reopening ceremonies.

Karyn Meshbane contributed to this article.

Analisa Harangozo may be contacted at