Springfield parks could become hub for gardeners

Monday, August 5, 2002

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A green plot in southwest Springfield could become a center of gardening and horticulture in the area.

The Springfield-Greene County Parks Department, the University Outreach and Extension and a group called Friends of the Garden are working on plans to build a horticulture center overlooking Nathanael Greene and Close Memorial parks.

Nathanael Greene is already home to the Japanese Stroll Garden, the Gray-Campbell Farmstead and the extension's Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden. Neighboring Close Memorial Park is the site of a number of volunteer-maintained plots with a variety of plants.

"Of course, with Close and the Japanese garden, that's going to be the botanical garden of Springfield," said extension horticulturist Gaylord Moore.

Gardening magnet

Plans for the horticulture center, which grew from the designs of Drury University architecture students five years ago, could sprout this summer.

The center will link the parks to create what proponents said will become a gardening magnet.

Jay Garrott, a professor in Drury's Hammons School of Architecture, said he and fellow architect Bruce Moore likely will start designing the horticulture center once the three groups involved agree on their needs.

"We will work out with the three groups how they will share space, how it might be phased in over time," he said. "From that, we can do some design work in more refined detail than what we have, then give them a clearer idea of costs."

Garrott has been involved from the beginning, when architecture students came up with designs. He was later president of Friends of the Garden and is now an architect working on the project.

Perhaps $2 million

The students' designs stimulated discussions that could lead to a $2 million horticulture center, Friends of the Garden president Don Akers said.

The parks department and the extension have funds available for a facility to be operated by the parks department. Friends of the Garden, made up of people from gardening and horticultural groups with interests in everything from roses and irises to vegetables and wildflowers, will launch a fund-raising effort to get its share, Akers said.

"Our needs are somewhat more fluid," he said.

The major need is for a meeting area to handle around 200 people, he said. That's compatible with some of the extension's needs.

The extension and its Master Gardeners program will move from its current offices to the center, Moore said. A horticulture center would provide plenty of room for classes and meetings.

"Our main perspective is to adequately serve our staff, plus some nice, sizable meeting facilities, classroom, auditorium facilities," he said.

Some decisions remain on what features a center will have, but there's a good idea of what it will look like, Akers said.

"It's going to be a structure that will be natural to its environment," Akers said. "The board decided they wanted something that looked indigenous. It will be something that will have stone and timber and glass and will have design elements that will be comfortable. But very, very modern, not only in appearance, but in function."

He and Moore also want the structure to showcase environmentally friendly architecture, Garrott said.

"We want it to be a demonstration site for the community," he said.

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