On a recent morning a bus pulled into the Northland Arboretum and unloaded a class of fourth-graders on a field trip from an area school. Dale Braddy watched the kids march past his office window and into the woods and said, "This is how it should be every day."
With that remark the arboretum's new director summed up his vision for the 540-acre preserve in Brainerd and Baxter. Braddy brings to the job a long list of accomplishments as a teacher and fund-raiser, and those two talents got the attention of the arboretum's 14-member board of directors, who chose him from a field of 30 applicants, six of whom were interviewed.
At a retreat in January the board of directors changed the arboretum's mission statement to read, "To preserve and promote our ecological and cultural community." The word "cultural" was retained because the board wants the arboretum to maintain a human component, not simply be a harbor of greenery in the midst of an ever-growing community. Thus, Braddy says his primary goal is to bring recognition to the arboretum and its educational programs.
"This place should be bustling with school kids and graduate students, people walking the trails in summer and skiing in the winter," said Braddy, whose first adult job was teaching high school biology. "We'll have educational programs both inside and outside. That's what excited me about the job; the possibility of all those things happening."
Braddy knows how to make things happen. As a teacher in Park Ridge, Ill., he wrote the curriculum on environmental science for Illinois schools and was nominated for the state's teacher of the year award. As an employee of the Chicago Lung Association he wrote a book on how smoking affects the respiratory system. As chairman of the Prior Lake Advisory Committee he worked on shoreline preservation, water quality and milfoil eradication projects and fought to ban phosphorous fertilizers from being used on lakeshore property. He ran his own company, Braddy and Associates, a consulting firm for marketing businesses.
Now the Illinois native brings his work ethic and vision to the arboretum, which he says should become "the best arboretum in the state" and "the centerpiece of the community."
"We can make it happen," Braddy said, "with the help of the board, graduate students and more funds. We have a tremendous group of volunteers."
But first a little housecleaning is in order. Braddy said the arboretum needs a major cleanup.
"There's a lot of dead wood out there, and that concerns me. We've got to clean up the underbrush. It'll take some time."
To help with his long-term goals for the arboretum's educational programs, Braddy will hire graduate students for internships in forestry and outdoor education.
"We'll need more grants and funds to do that. We have challenges ahead, but they're good challenges. It's an exciting time. We stand on the shoulders of everybody who ever did something for the arboretum. We must continue the growth and preservation of this gem we have."
An avid muskie fisherman and pheasant hunter, Braddy currently is living in his son's cabin on Mille Lacs while he looks for a house in the Brainerd area. With his wife, Susan, a claims adjuster, he has three children: Tom, an attorney in Omaha; Kathleen, a physician in Duluth; and Michael, a financial planner in Blaine.
VINCE MEYER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5862.
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