A new CEO is in at LA County Arboretum in Arcadia

Michael Desplaines is the new chief executive officer of the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, it was announced on Tuesday, May 23.

Desplaines, with more than two decades of experience in historic property development and restoration, public garden management, environmental education and fundraising, will begin his new role in July at the 127-acre Arcadia arboretum and botanical garden, which is part of the County of L.A.’s Department of Parks & Recreation.

“Michael brings a passion to connect people to nature, especially the young, so that they become advocates of public gardens and green spaces for future generations and our planet,” Annette Castro Ramirez, president of the Los Angeles Arboretum Foundation Board of Trustees, said in a statement announcing the selection. “We look forward to Michael working with our dedicated community of stakeholders to further enhance our beautiful gardens, programs, and historic resources. He will be opening new chapters in the rich history of the Arboretum and positioning us for great success into the future.”

Desplaines’ predecessor was Richard Schulhof, who in February announced his retirement this spring after 14 years as CEO.

The new CEO will run a hub that is home to plant collections from all over the world as well as a beloved animal sanctuary. Throughout the property visitors can find historical landmarks that feature Native American, Rancho Period and late 19th century treasures like the famous Queen Anne Cottage.

Desplaines joins the Los Angeles site as it begins moves forward on a Five-Year Strategic Plan (2023-2028) aimed to, “deepen connection with communities; increase equity and access to innovative park space; provide stewardship of public lands, resources, and urban forestry; support staff; and advance organizational excellence.”

Desplaines previously served as the president and CEO of the Norfolk Botanical Garden in Virginia, where he is credited with increasing annual attendance from less than 300,000 to more than 500,000 visitors while doubling the operating budget from $4 million to over $8 million.

“We are excited to welcome Michael as the CEO of the Arboretum,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose district includes the site.  “He has an impressive track record of leadership and extensive expertise in the horticulture and environmental education sectors. Michael’s leadership will build on the Arboretum’s success and ensure this oasis is here for generations to come.”

Desplaines also served as the executive director of Castle in the Clouds, a historic property in New Hampshire, and held leadership positions at McLaughlin Garden & Homestead in Maine and Cranston Public Schools in Rhode Island.

“We are thrilled to introduce Michael as the new CEO of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden,” said Norma Edith García-González, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation. “His extensive experience in horticulture, conservation, and the environment will advance the Arboretum as a blooming and living educational and cultural resource connecting community with nature.”

Desplaines holds a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from the University of Rhode Island and a master’s in historic preservation from Plymouth State University.

As LA County Parks addresses climate change impact, Michael’s leadership will continue to inspire and engage Arboretum visitors to be active stewards of our environment and further our commitment to access and equity,” added García-González.

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