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story.lead_photo.caption COURTESY ILLUSTRATION A 6,700-square-foot event pavilion that could accommodate weddings and other social events is one component of plans to expand the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks over the next 15 years. Members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and City Council are scheduled to consider a new master plan and lease agreement for the botanical garden next month.
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Botanical Garden Master Plan

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FAYETTEVILLE -- The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks could quadruple in size during the next 15 years if city officials approve a new master plan and lease agreement for the nonprofit organization.

Expansion plans, which include eight new gardens, three parking lots and five structures in a field and woods south and southwest of the Botanical Garden's existing footprint, were presented to donors Sunday.

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Master Plan

To view the proposed boundary of the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks’ 2028 master plan, go to nwaonline.com/documents.

Source: Staff Report

The plans show a 17,000-square-foot visitors center with an indoor conservatory, an event pavilion for weddings and other social functions, an amphitheater and outdoor classroom with seating for 500 and a community market for flower shows and plant sales.

The buildings would be surrounded by gardens featuring a wide variety of plants and trees. A 3-acre plot called a "field to fork garden," would showcase fruits and vegetables that can be grown in Northwest Arkansas.

The expansion project would increase the Botanical Garden's footprint from about 8 acres to just less than 40 acres.

Ron Cox, executive director, estimated the project would cost between $24 million and $26 million. It would be paid for entirely through private fundraising, Cox said.

Before any construction can begin, the 2028 master plan and revised lease agreement must be approved by the City Council after review by the Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

The Botanical Garden, which opened in September 2007, operates under a 25-year lease with the city. An initial lease was signed in September 2003.

The garden's leasehold stretches more than 90 acres, from its site at 4703 N. Crossover Road, to Veterans Memorial Park.

A proposal by Botanical Garden officials last year proved to be controversial. It would have required rerouting a small section of the roughly 7-mile soft-surface trail that encircles Lake Fayetteville and cuts through the garden's property. Garden leaders suggested tying the trail into the city's nearly 5.5-mile hard-surface trail for about a quarter-mile.

Trail users and members of the Ozark Off Road Cyclists were against the idea.

Other residents expressed concern about developing in sensitive wetland areas close to the lake and said they wanted to give deer, waterfowl and other wildlife plenty of room to move between the lake and garden property, which would be fenced in.

After months of discussion with city staff, Botanical Garden leaders pulled back their proposed master plan boundary. The new boundary is at least 100 feet from the shore and in one spot is about 400 feet from the lake. Cox said the trail would remain largely in tact except for roughly 70 feet that would have to be moved. And a pedestrian bridge over Hilton Creek that the Botanical Garden built would no longer be available for trail riders.

Steve Schneider, vice president of Ozark Off Road Cyclists, said Monday moving the small section of trail would have a big impact on his organization, which has built and maintained sections of the soft-surface trail for years. The Boy Scouts have also maintained parts of the trail, which existed before the Botanical Garden opened.

Members of the mountain-biking club want to be able to move a stretch of the trail on the southeast side of the lake out of a wetland area -- not further into the wetlands. Schneider said a new bridge over Hilton Creek would likely require a boardwalk, which would cost thousands of dollars to build.

Phil Penny, club president, said an environmental assessment should be conducted before the Botanical Garden's master plan is approved.

"We need to try as best as we can to keep that trail open for the user groups," Schneider said.

Work on the visitors center and field to fork garden -- the amenities closest to the section of trail that would be moved -- is slated to begin sometime between 2015 and 2019, according to the timeline presented Sunday.

An arboretum would be planted between 2017 and 2020. A Hilton Creek and 21st century sustainability garden is planned between 2021 and 2023. A woody plant garden would go in between 2023 and 2028, all according to the timeline.

"We've got 15 years of hard work ahead of us," Walt Eilers, president of the Botanical Garden board, said.

Gerald Klingaman, director of operations, said it's important to have a master plan in place, so everyone knows the general layout of what's being planned.

"Things like water lines and electric lines and sewer lines aren't terribly glamorous, but it's important that they get in early before too much construction goes too far," Klingaman said.

Barbara Taylor, one of about 30 attendees at Sunday's meeting, said she was excited to see the plans by David McKee, the Fayetteville architect who has also designed structures at Powell Gardens outside Kansas City, Mo., and the Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs.

"One of the things (McKee) appreciates is the relationship of buildings to their site and setting," said Taylor, a longtime donor and a member of the Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association and Beaver Watershed Alliance boards. "It's nice to see an architect who values not just the built environment, but the relationship between the built environment and the natural environment."

Members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board are scheduled to review the proposed master plan and lease agreement at their Aug. 4 meeting. The City Council will likely consider the issue later in the month.

Cox said the plans have the blessing of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the National Park Service. The state and federal agencies must approve any development at Lake Fayetteville because a series of federal grants, administered by the Parks and Tourism Department, were used to develop several portions of Lake Fayetteville, a 650-acre city park.

NW News on 07/15/2014

Print Headline: Botanical Garden Presents Master Plan Update

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