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Conrad Formal Gardens neglected due to pandemic

<p>Alongside the plants in the Conrad Formal Gardens, the spirits of the Oxford community have also wilted.</p>

Alongside the plants in the Conrad Formal Gardens, the spirits of the Oxford community have also wilted.

On the corner of North Patterson Avenue and East Withrow Street, across from The Miami Inn, lie the blossoming flowers and wildlife of the Conrad Formal Gardens. But this year, it’s anything but blossoming.

“I used to walk on the Formal Gardens for exercise, but now that they have fallen into dilapidation and total abandonment, I’m afraid to walk there,” local resident Carol Burke said.

Students who are used to walking in the gardens have observed the absence of plants as well.

“I used to love taking in the natural scenery at the gardens, but this year, it’s just so sad to see it gone,” said Claire Schoenfeld, a junior professional writing/media and culture double major.

Cody Powell is the associate vice president of facilities planning and operations of the physical facilities at Miami. He explained the reasoning behind the barren garden, simply saying there was no one to maintain it.

“Last March, the decision was made to go remote, which is when we plant in the gardens,” Powell said. “If we don’t have any students, we aren’t going to have any workers. It came down to the simple fact that we didn’t have the staff to plant them.”

Kirsten Ann Conrad, a horticulturalist and the eldest granddaughter of Arthur F. Conrad, the namesake of the garden, took notice, too.

“The Formal Gardens are a huge treasure, not only to the university, but to the surrounding community as well,” Conrad said. “It’s a unique campus environment.” 

Although she said she understood the decision to not maintain the garden, that didn’t stop the disappointment she felt.

“They named the garden after a man who dedicated his whole life to it,” Conrad said. “To see it empty is very disheartening.” 

Conrad said she was interviewed to be a horticulturist for the gardens and the campus two years ago, a position her grandfather held long ago. Miami University did not offer her the job. 

If she had been hired, Conrad said she had many ideas for the garden, including a transition to being self-reliant and hosting various fundraisers.

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“I spent a lot of the interview talking about how the garden could be self-sufficient through things such as tree donations, where individuals or companies can sponsor a tree on campus or in the gardens,” Conrad said. “I suggested brick donations, where for a certain amount of money, people can have their names in them. Think of how many bricks there are in that garden.” 

Finally, Conrad thought the gardens could bring a slice of home to international students on campus.

“I understand that Miami has a large international community, so why not plant things that are originally from their hometowns in the gardens?” Conrad said. “I feel like there’s so many ideas that could be taken advantage of.”

Although this season there are no flowers blooming, Powell says he is optimistic on the near future of the gardens.

“Hopefully we can return to normal functioning next semester,” Powell said. 

Conrad said she, too, is hopeful for a restoration of the beauty of the gardens soon.

“I can’t wait for the return of plants to the area,” Conrad said. “I think it’s such low hanging fruit for producing good vibes for students and others.”