Laurelwood Arboretum was made possible by a generous donation to the Township of Wayne by Dorothy and John Knippenberg. The Knippenbergs purchased the 30-acre property across from their home in Pines Lake, Wayne in the 1940s and 1950s. Known as Laurelwood Gardens, it was an active commercial nursery that specialized in rhododendrons and azaleas. The Knippenbergs were widely known and respected for developing many hybrid rhododendrons and for their generosity to the local community. It was their wish that the property eventually be given to Wayne Township to be open to the public as a horticultural preserve. Beginning in the 1960s, they worked to transform their nursery into an arboretum, with winding pathways, stately trees, and colorful special gardens.
The property became part of the township’s park system after John’s death. Dorothy continued to supervise Laurelwood and work in the gardens. At this time, a small grassroots community group formed to support her in maintaining the property and ensuring its future as a public park. In 2003, this group was formalized as Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum, Inc, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.
In 2007, following Dorothy’s death, Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum and Wayne Township entered into an agreement in which the responsibilities of each were defined.
Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum assumed responsibility for maintaining and improving the arboretum’s horticultural inheritance. This includes managing designated public funds and Laurelwood’s seasonal employees.
Laurelwood Arboretum is a now a public park maintained, operated, and programmed by Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum, in partnership with Wayne Township. This continues to be a successful arrangement by which the arboretum has thrived and the community has become increasingly involved as visitors, supporters and volunteers.This includes managing designated public funds and Laurelwood’s seasonal employees.