Swanson Science Park Arboretum
Swanson Science Park Arboretum is home to 65 species of trees and over 300 trees grow in the park.
The Westside Community Schools District 66 owns Swanson Park, but the Community Club of Swanson Elementary School, Boys Scouts and the neighborhoods surround the park contribute significantly to its upkeep and design. Paul Johnson, the first principal of Swanson Elementary School had the vision of creating the arboretum. He recognized the need to create an outdoor classroom to give children the opportunity to give children first hand experiences with nature. “The sad truth is that most of our children don’t know the difference between an apple tree and a walnut tree,” he said to the West Omaha – Dundee Sun in 1968. Swanson Elementary School sat adjacent to the perfect place , a seven acre field to the southwest. The Golden Valley Homeowner’s Association donated the acreage to District 66 with the stipulation that is was not to be used for any building or anything detrimental to the area. Mr. Johnson’s hope was “that eventually we can have at least one of every kind of tree that grows in Nebraska in this spot.” He envisioned the science park and arboretum at the core of a natural sciences curriculum for local school children at Swanson, Christ the King, Loveland and Westside High School to study trees, shrubs and grasses of this area as well as the birds attracted to the wooded area. He recognized that the occasional field trip to a natural area “could not give the children the opportunities that could be gained from frequent visits to a planned arboretum in a compact area.”
The Community Club raised money and in 1968 the first 35 trees were planted, another 116 were planted in 1969, followed by 65 in 1970-71.. The most recent tree-planting project occurred in 2011 when 75 neighbors, Boys scouts, teachers, parents and students planted another 40 trees to provide shade for the Swanson Elementary School playgrounds with funding from the ReTREE Nebraska grant program from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum.