In the mid-1960s Caroline Jensen moved "out the road" with her husband Carl to the property that he had just inherited from his aunt, Irma Olson. Once their new home was built, Caroline started to transform three of the 17 acres into some of the finest gardens in Juneau.
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Not wanting to see her hard work go by the wayside after she died, Jensen began researching ways that she could transform her property with its gardens into a public institution to preserve their beauty for future generations. A plan with the Southeast Alaska Land Trust and the City and Borough of Juneau to create a conservation easement was reached in 1998.
The conservation easement stipulated that the arboretum was not to become a large-scale tourist attraction, but was to be maintained for individuals, small, noncommercial and nonprofit groups as well as university and school groups. Upon her death in February 2006, the city assumed management of the property and laid the groundwork for the newly established Jensen-Olson Arboretum.
This past April, the city of Juneau hired Merrill Jensen (no relation) as the arboretum manager. Originally from Wyoming, he was lured north from his position as director of horticulture at the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, Calif. Prior to that, he had worked at botanical institutions in both Idaho and Oregon.
Merrill, along with his seasonal staff of two gardeners, have spent time cleaning up winter damage and are also working to restore the 95-year-old vegetable garden that once supplied Juneau gold miners with fresh produce. Starting from a master plan that Caroline commissioned from local landscape designer Judy Sherburne, Merrill will enhance the existing plant beds as well as install new plantings to augment the current plant palette for educational purposes.
The arboretum will officially open for public visitation with a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday at 23035 Glacier Highway, just under a mile corth of the Shrine of St. Therese. Year-round hours of operation will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. No admission will be charged.
Merrill B. Jensen is the arboretum manager for the Jensen-Olson Arboretum.