More than 85 people gathered at Laurelwood Arboretum on Sunday, July 19 to celebrate the dedication of the Knippenberg Center for Education. Officials from Wayne Township, Passaic County and the Tri-County Chamber of Commerce joined Alice Moskowitz, president of Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum (FOLA), vice president Jim McHugh, and Michael Rubin, Trustee of the John F. and Dorothy Knippenberg Charitable Trust, in cutting the ribbon for the opening of the new facility.
“This beautiful building that we are dedicating today fills an important need at Laurelwood Arboretum,” said Moskowitz. “For the first time, we have an indoor area for educational programs for young and old, a research library, space for FOLA board meetings and community activities and handicapped-accessible restrooms,” she said. “Over the past month, people have been stopping in to ask questions and gather information. It has already become the welcoming place we envisioned when we set out on the road to create this center.”
Construction of the Knippenberg Center was funded by grants from the Passaic County Open Space and Farmland Preservation Trust, Wayne Township and FOLA. The interior furniture, high-definition televisions sets, library furniture, books and accessories were donated by FOLA members and supporters. “The Knippenberg Center is the result of a very successful public private partnership in which many people and groups played a critical role and worked hand in hand,” Moskowitz said.
“This educational center is a gem in the middle of Wayne Township,” said Mayor Christopher P. Vergano. “It shows that volunteers and two branches of government can cooperate to reach a common goal.”
Freeholder John Bartlett, who is founding chairperson of Friends of Passaic County Parks, explained that in 1996 voters approved a special annual assessment to support the preservation and improvement of open space and farmland in the county. The annual assessment has made it possible for the Passaic County Freeholders to have invested almost $6.8 million over the past 15 years in open space projects. “Here at Laurelwood Arboretum, three country grants combined with municipal and private funds funded this educational center, the adjacent educational greenhouse and Laurelwood’s Sensory Garden,” Bartlett said.”I can’t think of a better example of coordination among various levels of government with the private and philanthropic sector than this beautiful site.”
In closing, Moskowitz paid tribute to Dorothy and John Knippenberg, who donated Laurelwood Arboretum to Wayne Township. “More than 50 years ago, at a meeting of the American Rhododendron Society, Dorothy Knippenberg expressed her wish that Laurelwood would become a public park after their lifetimes,” said Moskowitz. “Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum was formed to help realize the Knippenbergs’ vision. Our goal is to preserve their legacy.”
The Knippenberg Center for Education is now open Tuesday through Sunday from 12 noon to 4 pm to welcome visitors, provide information and host educational programs for children and adults. Laurelwood Arboretum is located at 725 Pines Lake Road West in Wayne.