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Botanical Garden in Fayetteville growing with popularity

by Stacy Ryburn | April 17, 2017 at 1:00 a.m.
The Fayetteville City Council will vote on a proposal to allow garden officials to expand onto about 2 acres northwest of the garden to build a 2,800-square-foot operations center. The city leases about 40 acres to the Botanical Garden and about 6½ have been cultivated, said Executive Director Charlotte Taylor.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks has room to grow but first needs to get an operational foundation beneath it.

Photo by David Gottschalk
A portion of a 1.7-acre area northwest of the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks in Fayetteville. The City Council will vote on a proposal to allowing garden officials to expand onto the area to build a 2,800-square-foot operations center. Right now, staff and volunteers place equipment in an outdoor storage crate.

Right now, staff and volunteers place equipment in an outdoor storage crate. The trucks sit outside in the elements. Mounds of compost dot the land to the west, and the plastic-covered greenhouses are susceptible to hail storms.

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What: City Council

When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Room 219, City Hall

113 W. Mountain St.

The city leases about 40 acres to the Botanical Garden, and about 6½ have been cultivated, said Executive Director Charlotte Taylor. The garden's board is asking the city for just short of 2 acres tucked away from view to build an operations center, proper greenhouses, a dry storage area and a place to keep the compost.

That small expansion will lay the foundation for a larger vision to better serve the place's 80,000 visitors each year, Taylor said. A new welcome center, gift shop, outdoor kitchen, and additional classroom and meeting space with gardens all around to the south are in the works.

"We are bursting at the seams, " she said. "Our building certainly is -- it was not built to be offices and an event center. Our educational programs are huge, and we don't have room for all of that."

A handful of preschoolers with the Wet Cement program at Potter's House explored the garden Thursday. Hayley Hall, assistant director, said one of the best things the garden has to offer for children that age is the interaction and ability to roam free.

The group set on a mission to find butterflies. They were successful, although they only found two yellow ones flying around. They didn't seem fazed.

Linda MacLean started volunteering at the garden this year. Aside from wanting to be around the flowers and the sounds of the critters, she has enjoyed her time working with the staff and learning new things. The place is always growing, she said.

"Every time I come out here, it seems like there's something new," MacLean said. "It's definitely a work in progress, like most gardens are. This one is a smaller botanical garden, but a mighty one."

The City Council will take up the land request Tuesday. The 1.7-acre portion slightly cuts into a 260-acre preserve with a nature center for Fayetteville and Springdale students. The superintendents of those districts have signed off on the deal.

Water and sewer lines have to be installed to accommodate the 2,800-square-foot operations center, which would remain out of view from the nearby trail. The expansion would have no detrimental effect to the environment, Taylor said.

"That's what we care about. We do a lot of education in that area," she said.

The board has secured donor support to build the operations center. The Botanical Garden, a nonprofit group, has a budget this year of almost $700,000. Revenue comes from sponsorships and grants, memberships, donations, event rentals, special events and entry receipts. About 70 percent of the expenses go toward operations and horticulture personnel in the garden and office staff. The rest is spent on maintenance, administrative duties, programs, events and volunteers.

A committee has been working on a plan for the larger expansion to the south. Getting visitor input so the garden grows with the region plays a big part of that, said Keith Ehmke, a volunteer and committee member.

"A build-it-and-they-will-come philosophy -- that doesn't work," he said.

The operations expansion will help with efficiency. Staff and volunteers will be able to fix mowers indoors during the offseason, for example, instead of trying to fit that kind of work in with the gardening. It'll also relieve the congestion at the welcome center, which currently serves as the only place with bathrooms, Wi-Fi, and meeting and office space for the entire crew.

"Right now, the horticulture team doesn't have an office," said Lissa Morrison, garden manager. "We just put up a laptop wherever we can find a corner."

NW News on 04/17/2017

Print Headline: Botanical Garden grows with region


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