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Reaching for the Sky

Hidden Lake Gardens Treetop Canopy Walk taking shape thanks to $1.25 million in gifts

rendering of Hidden Lake Gardens new canopy walk

Reaching for the Sky

Hidden Lake Gardens Treetop Canopy Walk taking shape thanks to $1.25 million in gifts

It’s not every day that you can journey high into the trees. See the world like a squirrel moving from branch to branch. Catch every note of songbirds perching below. Feel the breeze rustling in leaves around you.

A walkway being built through the treetops of MSU’s Hidden Lake Gardens soon will offer visitors all this and more. Slated for final completion in spring 2023, the $1.25 million project is being funded entirely through the philanthropic support of donors.

A 700-foot-long Jeane Johnson Canopy Walk—named in honor of a generous estate gift from the late Jeane Johnson—will be the latest attraction at Hidden Lake Gardens, a botanical garden and arboretum owned and operated by MSU, situated about 65 miles southeast of East Lansing.

Donors and community volunteers will get a sneak peek at the walk on Saturday, October 22, 2022. The canopy walk will open with full public accessibility in spring 2023.

“This effort exemplifies the very best kinds of partnerships, where the community and the university see the benefit and seize the opportunity together,” President Stanley said. “We are grateful for the support of donors who saw the value in this project. Their unwavering commitment is now a part of the legacy of Hidden Lake Gardens and its work to improve lives by connecting people with nature.”

Tecumseh attorney Charles (Chuck) Gross chaired the steering committee for the project, whose members gave generously themselves and helped inspire the support of others, including the Stubnitz Foundation, the Lenawee Community Foundation and Consumers Energy Foundation. Notably, Paul and Kathy Smoke, who live near the gardens, contributed $150,000 to name the walk’s classroom space.

“The early commitments by the Lenawee Community Foundation and the Stubnitz Foundation showed the support of the community for the project and gave us the credibility needed to secure other donors,” Chuck added. “The support of Jeane Johnson, who was raised on a nearby farm, gave our fundraising the post-covid boost we needed to push it over the top.”

The project is designed to provide significant new opportunities for education, outreach, research, visitor experience, tourism and economic development, according to Hidden Lake Gardens Director Paul Pfeifer, who noted that it was critical that the canopy walk be fully ADA accessible.

“We know people need places not only to appreciate the beauty of nature but to engage with our environment and learn from it to become better stewards of the world around us,” he said. “The canopy walk will be an exciting new way for people of all ages and abilities to explore nature and experience the gardens.”

The project is being carefully executed for sustainably and to preserve the flora and fauna of the area.

Hidden Lake Gardens boasts six miles of one-way paved drives and 12 miles of hiking trails through both landscaped and undeveloped natural areas, as well as multiple demonstration gardens, an entire hillside of hostas, a nationally renowned bonsai courtyard, an equally renowned conifer collection and a conservatory that inspires visitors year-round with a tropical dome, arid dome and temperate house displaying unique plants from around the world.

Hidden Lake Gardens is supported through admission fees, endowments, gifts and the “Friends of Hidden Lake Gardens” membership program. The Gardens is open 360 days of the year, with an admission fee of $10 per person. Guided tours, requested at least two weeks in advance, are available for $5 per person.

LEARN MORE about support for Hidden Lake Gardens by contacting Associate Director of Gift Planning Laura Peek at or by calling (517) 884-1070.