People often associate parks with activity and physical health.
The new Healing Garden at the Muriel Sahlin Arboretum is an invitation to pause and connect with nature. The Healing Garden promotes a sense of emotional wellbeing, hopefulness, and respite from our day-to-day stresses.
“From lowering blood pressure to evoking positive emotions such as calmness, joy, and happiness, nature heals in many ways,” explained Roseville’s Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Carrie Anderson.
The innovative project is a collaboration between Roseville Parks and Recreation and Ramsey County Master Gardeners. The Healing Garden launched in the summer of 2022 and recently won an Award of Excellence from the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association.
Thanks to a generous gift from the Central Park Foundation, the city has made even more improvements including paving the trails at the Arboretum to better accommodate people using wheelchairs or who have other mobility issues.
The Healing Garden is a self-guided experience. It includes 14 interpretive signs that help visitors understand and appreciate the healing elements in the park which are supported by a growing body of neuroscience.
“We know nature heals and there is science behind that,” said Patti Sullivan, a maintenance worker at the arboretum. “Walk into the garden and your breathing improves. All your senses are activated –you touch, smell, hear, and see. All of that improves your mental health as well as your physical health.”
The hope is that Roseville’s Healing Garden can serve as a pilot project that can be replicated by other communities.
The project started in 2022 when the Ramsey County Master Gardeners began scouting for a location for a healing garden. They toured Roseville’s 8-acre arboretum and determined more than half of the 43 components of optimal healing garden design were already present.
They approached city parks leaders and a partnership was formed.
Master Gardeners Susan Mitchell and Martha Lantz co-lead the project for their organization. They say early public surveys are yielding promising results –more than 90 percents of respondents felt calmer, less stressed, and more energized after spending time at the arboretum.
“The results are pretty phenomenal,” Mitchell said. “It continues to encourage us we are on the right track.”
Jennifer Costello spent a summer morning at the healing garden. She sat on the edge of the fountain, listening to the water, enjoying the moment. Costello is recovering from a head injury and she said was drawn to the arboretum as part of her healing journey.
She and her husband are frequent visitors of Central Park for exercise and fresh air. Now she’s rediscovering the space as she focuses on her recovery and mental health.
“It’s very peaceful here and it’s very healing,” she said.