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The arboretum was founded in 1972 when the Brainerd Landfill closed; that original 40-acre (160,000 m2) landfill site now supports a grassland. The Arboretum now contains a Red Pine plantation and an area of Jack Pine savanna, with nearly 20 kilometers of trails for hiking and cross-country skiing, of which nearly 5 kilometers are lit for evening skiing. Other areas include a native tree trail, youth gardens, a wildflower trail, and a pond with arched bridge. The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 200 acres (0.81 km2) within the arboretum.
Arboretum plants include woodland wildflowers such as shinleaf, rattlesnake-plantain, blue-bead lily, and pink lady's slipper; prairie vegetation such as silky prairie clover, birdfoot violet, blue-eyed grass, gayfeather, and pasque flower; and grasses such as big bluestem, kalm's brome, muly-grass, porcupine grass, and June grass.