Santa Barbara to Chanhassen is not your typical migration pattern for a 62-year-old. But that's the move that Ed Schneider will make when he becomes director of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum this summer.

At least Schneider, who has spent his entire career in Texas and California, will have the good sense to make the move in mid-July.

The climatological shift is one of many transitions for the Portland, Ore., native. He's also coming from the private, 65-acre Santa Barbara Botanic Garden to an 1,100-acre complex that relies on public and private funding.

Schneider, the fourth director in the arboretum's 52-year history, is delaying his arrival until a controversial Vital Mission Plan -- aimed at developing portions of the Santa Barbara garden, which he has directed since 1992 -- reaches fruition.

Q So how did they convince you and your wife, Sandy, to come to Minnesnowta?

A The turning point was in May 2009. The Jesusita fire, named after a hiking trail in the mountains, swept down and burned a lot of the Botanical Garden, including the director's house. After that, what we owned fit in the trunk of a car. We looked at each other and said, "Maybe this is the time to look to go elsewhere."

As for the weather, we both grew up in the state of Washington. I was in the Cascade Mountains and saw a lot of snow; my wife is a little less used to it.

Q Is it safe to say you will be doing some "cramming" on Zone 4 plants during the coming months?

A My academic research actually has been looking at plants from an adaptational viewpoint, plants that grow in a wide range of ecological situations. What is there in the internal structure and texture of plants that grow in cold climates? Are there common features of these plants?

Q What's your favorite plant?

A Water lilies. They're also the ones I've studied the most.

Q Can you talk about the Vital Mission Plan, which has caused some controversy in Santa Barbara?

A It is a long-term master plan. It started before I arrived. Our last public-accessible space built at the garden was in 1942. Some of the facilities are antiquated. The garden is in a very high-residency neighborhood in a fire-box canyon, so there's a limit to ensuring the safety of the canyon.

We're down now to some square footage [for new facilities] that is widely accepted by a majority of people.

The Planning Commission has approved the plan, but the opposition appealed and that appeal will be heard on May 4. That's one reason I stayed, until the process is completed.

Q Do you foresee doing any property development along those lines here?

A I think that there's enough land and buffer areas in place. But it's like an airport. When you first put it in a wilderness, pretty soon people move in and complain about the noise. There are always anti-growth people that are very, very strong. I just hope there can be civility and transparency in whatever's being done.

Q In recent years, the University of Minnesota has dropped some programs at the arboretum, and of course government funding continues to dry up. Are there any programs you're hoping to start or resuscitate?

A There's a lot that I don't know about the actual core programs. One of the things I want to do is ensure that it's positioned to better involve the philanthropy of the community. During the [job] negotiations, we decided that it would be good for the director to live on-site and use the director's house for friend-gathering activities, bringing people in and sharing a vision of the future.

My understanding is that the western property is not fully developed, so the question becomes how do you utilize that land, does the circulation pattern need to be altered, does the 3-Mile Drive need to be expanded?

One of the things I'd really like to explore is restoration projects. This arboretum has been really good with its restoration of wetlands program.

Q Did you like playing in the dirt as a kid?

A I truly did. I grew up in the lake area of eastern Washington, so I'm looking forward to exploring the lakes and maybe even looking for a cabin to buy. I loved going to lakes, which is something you don't get to do in California.

I also look forward to bird hunting and fishing. Not necessarily ice fishing, but I've got to at least get my picture taken doing that.

Bill Ward • 612-673-7643