A new beginning for the Burden Center

Linda Benedict, Kuehny, Jeff S.  |  2/21/2012 2:26:37 AM

Jeff S. Kuehny
 
Burden Center is a unique LSU AgCenter facility consisting of 440 acres of green space in the heart of Baton Rouge and conveniently located off Interstate 10. The property was donated by the Burden family to the LSU Agricultural Center and LSU A&M beginning in 1966. The vision stipulated that the property be a "green area" to be enjoyed by the public and that it be used to conduct horticultural and agronomic research and to showcase a Rural Life Museum, formal and informal gardens, and an urban forest.

Burden Center Today
Today, Burden Center comprises many of those elements, which include horticulture and agronomic research, the All-America Rose Garden, the All-America Selections Garden, the Steele Burden Memorial Orangerie, the Ione Burden Conference Center, Burden Woods, Trees and Trails, the Barton Arboretum, the Stone Camellia Collection, Windrush Gardens and the LSU Rural Life Museum.

Burden Center: The Future
A master plan for Burden Center completed in 2009 honors the legacy of the Burden family and provides a unified vision for the future that combines both research and extension activities. The Mission of the Burden Center is to promote the importance of plants and their environment to the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the citizens of Baton Rouge, the state of Louisiana, and the world. The mission will be accomplished through a three-pronged approach:

  • Performing research and facilitating the research of others to develop sustainable plants, landscapes, woodlands and wetlands.
  • Educating the community through demonstration of the value of this research by enabling direct public access.
  • Bringing people back to nature by providing a diversity of green places and special facilities to engage in conversation, create a community and commune with nature.

Burden Center comprises destinations and points of activity that reflect the past, present and future of agriculture in Louisiana. The LSU Rural Life Museum represents the 18th and 19th century plantation era in Louisiana history while the present and future are represented by the LSU AgCenter’s Burden Center.

A new entry road and trail network (Trees and Trails) will tie the site together and create an easily navigated road and trail system for visitors. It will lead to the Botanical Garden, which represents present-day horticulture through its current display and demonstration gardens. Future plans include housing the East Baton Rouge Parish Extension Office, a new conference center, three children’s gardens, an Herb and Heritage Garden, a culinary garden and the Louisiana Garden Center, an educational center for local and state horticultural organizations.

The Ornamental and Turf Research Facility will be accessible through the Interstate tunnel and expand its scope to include wetlands research. The woodlands on that side of the property will be designated as a preserve and will be used for future research in urban forest restoration and education.

From the Botanical Garden the road will continue across an existing bridge and alongside the Food and Fiber Plant Research Facilities, which will continue to support horticultural and agronomic research and expand into greater extension opportunities.

Through the fields and down the oak alley, the road will continue to the LSU Rural Life Museum and historic Windrush Gardens, leading to the Barton Arboretum. Plans include expanding the Barton Arboretum to feature cultivated specimen woody ornamentals.

Trees and Trails, whose trail head is behind the Steele Burden Memorial Orangerie, will continue through Burden Woods, which is home to forestry and environmental research and education activities. This trail system will connect to the Barton Arboretum with a new boardwalk over the Black Swamp, a rain-fed wetland composed of 200-year-old tupelo trees. Additional plans include a connecting trail and boardwalk that will overlook a 10-acre wetland observed from Burdens Bluff and continue along the Wards Creek Meanders.

The Burden Horticulture Society, a friends group, was formed in 2007 to enhance and promote Burden Center for public benefit through educational programs, fundraising and volunteerism. The East Baton Rouge Master Gardeners, Baton Rouge Camellia Society, Baton Rouge Herb Society and Baton Rouge Bonsai Society all help support various outreach opportunities at Burden Center. Through the support of these organizations, the LSU AgCenter, the Burden Foundation and the LSU Foundation, Burden Center is moving forward with a capital campaign, "A Destination for Generations," to provide funding to continue to enhance this unique facility. For more information contact Gigi Gauthier at 225-763-3990.

Jeff S. Kuehny, Professor, School of Plant, Environment & Soil Sciences, and Resident Director, Burden Center, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, La.

(This article was published in the winter 2012 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)

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