The Arboretum at the University of Guelph, a popular green space among the campus and broader community, is reopening for outdoor events.
Beginning Aug. 8, the Arboretum will offer outdoor venue rentals for external activities on a restricted basis.
Director Justine Richardson said the University is allowing the picturesque grounds to again be open for special community events. The park-like, 165-hectare Arboretum is a highly sought-after venue for events such as weddings, memorials, birthday celebrations and fundraisers.
“It is so exciting to now be a part of our community’s new normal going forward,” Richardson said. “We are grateful that we were able to keep our trails open throughout the pandemic. Soon, we can allow certain kinds of events in our outdoor rental spaces.”
Outside-only events will be allowed in keeping with COVID-19 safety protocols that follow the latest guidelines from the province, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health and the University.
This includes restricting events to invitation-only, limiting their duration to two hours and allowing no more than 50 people to attend. Physical distancing plans and measures will be in effect, and seating arrangements and other plans must be approved. Invitation lists must be carefully maintained to ensure contact tracing best practices.
There is still no access to indoor spaces, including washroom facilities, and U of G’s hospitality services will not be offered.
The Arboretum, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding this year, is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in Ontario. It is home to more than 40,000 specimens in more than 30 plant collections and conservation gene banks, as well as gardens, wetlands, nature trails and forests. It also holds eight kilometres of walking trails.
Each year, more than 100,000 people visit the Arboretum, and more than 6,000 people participate in workshops, guided tours and special events.
When the province expanded social circles from five to 10 people n June, the Arboretum began receiving requests for outdoor rental venues, Richardson said.
“These were from people whose lives were put on hold, people asking to have events like an eight-person wedding in our conifer outdoor ceremony site,” she said.
“Now, some of those special events can start to happen. And this is a little start for us to regain some of our lost activity and revenue.”
The Arboretum will continue to monitor the changing COVID-19 situation, adjusting protocols when necessary, Richardson said. She added the top priority during the reopening phase is protecting the health and safety of essential campus workers, user groups and the general public.