Located in Bar Harbor, Maine, the College of the Atlantic Gardens encompass five garden facilities and an arboretum on the grounds of the College of the Atlantic campus. The College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 as the first United States higher educational institution to focus primarily on the relationship between humanity and the environment, organized by educators and community members looking to utilize Mount Desert Island as a year-round learning location.
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The college’s first class, consisting of 32 students, was admitted in 1972 and is credited as a major research facility and environmental lobbying force in the American Northeast, playing a major role in enacting Maine’s returnable beverage container bill in 1974. Today, the college has a student body of 350 and runs on a self-designed major model framed around studies of human ecology and environmentalism.
As one of the nation’s leading green colleges, natural spaces are built into the campus of the College of the Atlantic, serving a variety of recreational, food supply, and scientific study purposes. Six separate public garden facilities are operated on the grounds of the College of the Atlantic campus, including an arboretum facility. All garden facilities are free and open to the public for exploration and relaxation.
Located at the campus’ north end, the Community Garden was originally used as a facility for growing organic produce used in the campus’ kitchens. Today, the garden space is open for public use as a community garden facility for the Mount Desert Island community, offering plots every spring on a first-come-first-served basis. Mount Desert Island residents interested in reserving plot space may contact the garden’s director via phone or email. Nearby, Newlin Gardens are accessible from the Community Garden via a small stairway. Established in 1992 by Mount Desert Island resident Elizabeth Battles Newlin, the gardens are intended to serve as a monument to the late E. Mortimer Newlin. Following Elizabeth’s 1995 death, an endowed chair position, the Elizabeth Battles Newlin Chair in Botany, was established to honor Newlin’s environmental and landscaping work and legacy.
The Beatrix Farrand Garden honors Bar Harbor resident Beatrix Farrand, who designed the landscaped gardens for Washington D.C.’s Dumbarton Oaks Library and New York City’s Morgan Library. Located behind the college’s Kaelber Hall, the garden’s rock-walled quiet reflection rooms were designed by Farrand prior to their adjoining estate’s inclusion in the college’s campus. Original rose bush plantings by Farrand are still visible in the garden today, along with a perennial border meant to evoke the landscaper’s traditional style.
The Turrets Seaside Garden overlooks the islands of Frenchman Bay and Schoodic Peninsula, shadowed by the campus’ historic Turrets facility. The 4,000-square-foot garden facility was fully restored to its historic condition in 2005 by Eamonn Hutton, who embarked on renovation endeavors as part of his senior project at the college. The garden’s original formal bedding pattern has been recreated with lower-maintenance sustainable plantings, including fairy roses, lavender, astilbe, and Siberian iris, evoking the classic blue and grey hues of landscape designer Gertrude Jekyll. A new fountain for the garden was installed in 2009, designed by COA alumni Dan Farrenkopf. A Sunken Garden, created by original Turrets owners John and Lela Emery, has also been restored by a group of seniors of the 2009 graduating class.
The college’s Arboretum of Eden was the project of former professor Craig Greene, who planted many of the facility’s shrubs and trees. The arboretum features more than 100 species of native and non-native trees and shrubery, including plants imported from the Mediterranean, Japan, China, and Korea. Notable plantings include copper beech, white pine, and Eastern hemlock trees. The arboretum facility spans throughout the college’s 35-acre campus and serves as a living museum facility highlighting botanical diversity and the relationship between humans and the environment.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Produce for the school’s kitchens is sourced today as part of a partnership with nearby Beech Hill Farm, founded in 1989 by COA alumni Barbarina Heyerdahl and her husband, Aaron. The farm was the realization of Heyerdahl’s senior project at the college and was donated to the facility in 1999. As an MOFGA-certified organic farm, the 73-acre farm offers six acres of fields for vegetable production, along with five greenhouse facilities, three apple orchards, forest land, and pasture space for livestock. The farm operates a seasonal farmer’s market stand, runs a CSA program, and sells produce in partnerships with several local restaurants and markets. Educational programming is offered through the farm for COA students and community members, including workshops, class visits, and public special events.
105 Eden Street, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, Phone: 207-288-5015