Leach Botanical Garden about to open – with new Director

Learn more about Leach Garden Friends’ new Executive Director, Mae Lin Plummer, and see the finishing touches being put in place, before the Garden’s re-opening in outer East Portland

With the new Leach Botanical Garden “Upper Garden Project” feature – the Aerial Tree Walk, high overhead in the background – incoming Leach Garden Friends Executive Director Mae Lin Plummer talks with a neighbor at the main lower entry gate.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

With work progressing in the Leach Botanical Garden (LBG) to build the “Upper Garden Project”, it won’t be long until “Phase One” will be completed, and visitors will be able to enjoy the wonderful improvements in this unique Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) facility.

>> Near the end of August, 2020, we brought you an update on the “Upper Garden Project” CLICK HERE to read it.

>> And, in January, we “said goodbye” to outgoing Leach Garden Friends Executive Director David Porter. CLICK HERE to see our farewell to him.

Finishing new Grand Staircase railings are Logan Kinion and Adam Norris, both with Newberry Steel.

In that January article, readers got a brief introduction to Mae Lin Plummer, the incoming executive director of Leach Garden Friends – the nonprofit organization that supports the LBG.

In March, Plummer invited us to tour the Upper Garden, as the finishing touches were being put in place.

As we walked, Plummer said that – after being a corporate financial industry professional for some two decades – she decided it was time for a career change. Starting as a volunteer, Plummer explained that she discovered a “passion for horticulture and public gardens”, and ended up serving as Garden Director at the Duke Mansion. She also filled several roles at the UNC-Charlotte Botanical Gardens, both of them in North Carolina.

Standing near the fire pit near the Fireside Arbor in the Upper Garden, Leach Garden Friends Executive Director Mae Lin Plummer points out the new Aerial Tree Walk in the background.

Asked how she decided to apply for the job with Leach Garden Friends – involving a 2,754 mile move, or very long commute – Plummer said, “I was looking for a position, after graduating from the Longwood Fellows Program – an intensive leadership development program for future leaders in public horticulture.

“With my particular fondness for botanic gardens, I knew that Leach Garden was where I wanted to be,” Plummer smiled.

The Fireside Arbor is ready to accommodate educational, neighborhood, and private groups – once such gatherings are again permitted to take place.

“I was specifically looking for a leadership opportunity at a botanical garden – one that was truly ready for change and transformation, and was looking for a different kind of leader.

“I also loved that Leach Botanical Garden was in an under-served part of the city, and wanted to become the center of a diverse, cultural community,” she remarked. “During my interview, I could sense the tremendous hope and desire from staff, volunteers, and board about all the good Leach Botanical Garden could do, and be a world class botanical treasure.”

In the foreground is the newly installed Pollinator Garden; and, behind it, workers are readying the new parking area, restrooms, and orientation center.

What she believes she brings bring to her new position, that will be most helpful to the continued growth and success of Leach Botanical Garden, Plummer shared, “Is I think I bring a boldness and abundance of enthusiasm and passion to the position that is really needed at this critical time in history, not just for the garden’s growth as an organization, but also as a champion for equity and inclusion, based on my lived experiences.

“I am a bi-racial Chinese American military brat, who grew up around the world – struggling with looking different, and not feeling like I belonged anywhere,” Plummer elaborated. “I was always an outsider in some way.”

In addition, her experience as a project manager in corporate finance has helped her learn how achieve measurable results, and bring the concept of ideas into fruition.

“It might go without saying, but I am also an obsessed plant nerd!” Plummer said with a smile of admission.

It won’t be long until visitors get to experience “walking on air”, as they tread the spectacular Aerial Tree Walk, and enjoy other amenities in Leach Botanical Garden.

“As the Garden reopens, what I look forward to most is witnessing the fulfillment of hope we can bring to visitors, from both near and far, after all the challenges and difficulty of the pandemic and related civil unrest,” Plummer told East Portland News.

“The garden is a perfect setting to reconnect with ourselves and others, and celebrate the resilience of the human spirit,” she maintained. “Beauty and nature have a transformative effect and incredible healing, when we immerse ourselves in its peaceful tranquility. Here, there is reassurance that all will be okay.”

Garden may reopen in April
Earlier this year, officials said they hoped Leach Botanical Garden would open in March; but now it appears that it will be sometime in April when visitors will again be welcomed. As soon as we get word, we’ll publish the announcement in our daily-updated Community Calendar.

Keep up to date with Leach Botanical Garden by visiting their official website: CLICK HERE.

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™

 

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