BOWLING GREEN - At one time, it served as the city's water well field, then later became a giant compost site for brush and leaves.
Now, a rolling strip of land sandwiched between neighborhoods on the city's west side is on its way to becoming an 11-acre garden park.
The Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Foundation announced yesterday that it has raised $362,000 toward its $700,000 goal for the new park, which will incorporate walking trails and a 120-seat amphitheater amid a series of botanical gardens.
"It just seemed a great place to have a garden park like this, which would be unique, certainly in this city, and unique in our surrounding cities," said Margaret Tucker, president of the foundation.
After soliciting parks supporters over the last several months, the foundation is asking the public to contribute to the garden park by sponsoring trees, plantings, walkways, or benches, or simply giving "grow the garden" monetary gifts.
"We've encouraged people to do things as memorials," said Nadine Edwards, co-chairman of the fund-raising campaign. "It's a good way for families to do something in memory of their parents or children."
The park property at Conneaut Avenue and Wintergarden Road includes a former church that now houses the city parks and recreation offices. Other than grass, some trees, and a crushed gravel walking trail, though, the garden park exists primarily on paper.
Plans call for a handicapped-accessible sensory garden, a children's discovery garden, a shade garden, sculpture garden, perennial garden, bulb and annual gardens, reflection garden, a waterfall, and an artificial stream with two bridges. Signs posted along the walking path indicate what is planned for each area.
Ms. Tucker said she and other members of the foundation toured garden parks in Ohio and other states for ideas for the planned park, including the 60-acre Toledo Botanical Garden, the 17-acre Schedel Foundation Arboretum & Gardens in Elmore, and the 577 Foundation in Perrysburg.
"I think what we've done is try to combine a lot of things from all of those gardens," Ms. Tucker said.
"What we've done is we've sort of stolen the best," she said.
City Parks Director Michelle Grigore, who was director of Toledo Botanical Garden before coming to Bowling Green in 2004, said the new park is intended to be "beautiful, functional, and low maintenance."
She said the roofed amphitheater, to which the Bowling Green Rotary Club pledged $40,000, could be built this summer followed by the sensory and children's gardens next year. The rest of the park will develop as the money is raised and expensive items such as a $150,000 irrigation system are installed.
"It's going to take a number of years," she said. "We'll do it in phases. The beautiful part of it is this garden will be built as the community wants it."
With the contributions the city has made, including the purchase of what is now the Simpson Building, relocation of power lines, and other infrastructure work at the park, Ms. Grigore figures the cost of developing the entire 11-acre site will top $2 million.
She said a sizable portion of the money raised by the parks foundation - at least $300,000 - will go into an endowment to provide maintenance.
"You can build gardens but getting money to maintain them over time is a challenge," Ms. Grigore said.
The park was named in memory of Violet and Newton Simpson, a Bowling Green couple who left $350,000 to the city parks department when they died. They were avid gardeners who enjoyed the city's parks.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-353-5972.
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