Mike Tyler stands on the new boardwalk in September while searching a pond for birds to photograph at Viles Arboretum in Augusta. The nonprofit is seeking a new executive director. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — The executive director of Viles Arboretum, a 224-acre natural refuge in the capital city, is stepping down from the job at the end of the year.

Ryan Martin, who since June 2020 has been executive director of the nonprofit that oversees the botanical gardens, hiking trails and educational programs at the Hospital Street conservation area, said he feels he has done what he set out to accomplish there and the time is right for him to move on and make way for a new director.

Viles Arboretum Executive Director Ryan Martin at the organization’s new education center in June 2021 in Augusta. Martin recently resigned from that position but will continue to serve as a city councilor in Hallowell, where he lives. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

He said his focus has been on building up operations, systems and staff, which he feels has been a success, and he hopes the arboretum will find a director who can focus on research, education and stewardship of the arboretum’s vast collections of plant life going forward.

“Things have been going really well at the arboretum, and I’m really excited about that. I think I’m just ready for the next thing,” Martin said Tuesday. “I think the arboretum is ready for a director to maybe push a little deeper into the mission. One of the things I wanted to accomplish was getting the organization in a solvent position. It is now basically twice the size, in revenues and staff, that it was 36 months ago. That was one of the goals kind of set out for me. And I feel like we’ve crossed that bridge.”

Aleta McKeage, an environmental scientist who has previously collaborated with Viles Arboretum on its “Forest of the Future” initiative, will serve as interim executive director while a search for a permanent leader is underway.

“We are thrilled to welcome Aleta as she steps into this role,” Tracy Weber, board president of the arboretum, said in a news release. “Her technical expertise, decades of experience and work with the Waldo County Soil and Water Conservation District align perfectly with our mission. This transition also provides us the time needed to conduct a comprehensive search for a permanent executive director.”


Weber said during Martin’s tenure the arboretum experienced rapid, transformative growth, successfully navigated through the coronavirus pandemic, added several positions, built and opened its new education center and scenic wetland boardwalk and added dozens of new programs and initiatives.

Martin, who is also a city councilor in Hallowell, plans to remain in that role. He said he will miss working at the arboretum and its diverse habitats offering opportunities for recreation, exploration and education.

“It’s a bittersweet thing, exiting a place you love. I love the arboretum, my family — we have two young children — uses it, it’s an incredible place,” Martin said. “But you have professional goals that are front and center, as well.”

Martin’s resignation is to be effective Jan. 1 and he plans to assist in the transition. He said he’s still considering options for what else he may do in the future, and may do some consulting work in the meantime.

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