Unlike some other Canberra institutions, the National Arboretum was largely able to stay open through the COVID shutdown period. Christine Callen, Events and Community Engagement Manager at the National Arboretum Canberra outlined that as a mostly outdoor attraction they continued to offer outdoor activities to the community, “forests and gardens were open throughout the COVID19 restrictions for visitors to undertake daily exercise with appropriate social distancing.”
“To ensure the health and wellbeing of visitors and staff, our indoor spaces including Ginger Catering café, Curatoreum shop, and Margaret Whitlam Pavilion closed for a period of time, along with the POD playground and the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection Australia.”
Even still the Arboretum wanted to be proactive in its COVID management. To keep everyone safe when reopening indoor areas, they created a COVID19 safe business plan, that provided clear instructions for staff about safety measures, such as “designated entry and exit doors, installing hand sanitisers, becoming a cash-free site, increasing cleaning of common touchpoints and limiting the number of visitors indoors per 4sm in line with COVID19 guidelines.”
Like many of our Canberra members, it has been essential to focus on the positives this year; Christine outlined that not only was the downtime a great opportunity to get some maintenance done, but the community turnout when reopening has been very encouraging. “We have seen a significant increase of visitors walking (including visitors taking their dogs on leashes), and cycling throughout the 94 forests . Locals are discovering and enjoying 20km of tracks and trails, including 12km of new trails,which is great from a health and environment perspective. We have also been pleased with how accommodating visitors have been, respecting the social distancing regulations and complying with staff instructions,” Christine explained.
Christine’s advice to other NCAA members is to work together as part of a community, “stay connected as a team, to acknowledge good days and bad days, and to reach out to other attractions or businesses to see how they are solving similar problems.”
As for what’s next for this beloved Canberra institution, there are some exciting things in the pipeline. “The National Arboretum is looking to reframe its activities with a heavier emphasis on the local market and intends to attract a larger self-drive market. We employed an Indigenous Australian Tourism Officer before COVID19 and will softly launch relevant public activities, from weaving workshops to Bush Tucker Garden programs,” Christine said.
Find out more about the National Arboretum and what’s coming up here.