Gateway Garden Club is working closely with the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation Board to build the garden at Ambrose Park in Martinsburg. WV.
Gateway Garden Club Children’s Park Project
The following article is the first of three about a very ambitious project the Gateway Garden Club of Martinsburg has adopted. The aim of writing this article is to encourage other clubs to THINK BIG and to help others avoid some of the problems we have encountered.
Our club has 20 members, mainlv retired teachers and grandmothers. Two years ago several of our members discussed the fact that our community had no children’s garden. How could our small club possibly remedy that situation?
Call it serendipity! Later that year the director of our local Parks and Rec Board was discussing the renovation of four and a half acre park in the city on a radio talk show WOULD HE POSSIBLY ALLOW US TO PUT A GARDEN IN THE PARK?
When asked the question, without hesitation he said YES!
Thus begins our project:
Four members of our club were in New York City to attend the Katie Couric Show and while having dinner, the topic of a children’s garden was discussed. We brainstormed and these were our initial ideas.
Kids love to climb so put a hill in the middle of the area. The garden should be whimsical, colorful,environmentally friendly, have lots of trees, plants and shrubs and encourage outdoor play. We drew a childlike sketch of our ideas.
We knew that before we could approach the club with our ideas we needed to do some “groundwork”.
We contacted an architect whose mother was one of the original members of our club and an engineer, who is the husband of one of our current members. They both agreed to help.
Each of us started looking for pictures of things we might want to include in the garden. We all agreed that there should be educational and physical components and we kept discussing the idea of “themed niches” .We visited gardens in New York City and found that a hook by Molly Dannenmaier. A Child’s Garden really stoked our creative furnaces. Even those of us who consider ourselves non creative have lots of good ideas when we “dig deep”.
Our initial ideas were presented to the Park Board of Directors and also to our club members. Both groups approved our idea and our club decided that this will he our main project for 3to 4 years. Both groups understood that it would take several months to solidify the ideas.
The same day we received our club’s okay, we applied for a $5000 grant to help us with the mountain construction.
A seven member committee was formed to work on a strategy for fundraising and to create a design that would be given to the architect. We decided to create a letter explaining the project to business people, lawyers, community leaders, PTA presidents and friends. We were fortunate to have a local printing company embrace our project by designing and printing all of our publications. The local newspaper published several pictures and articles. As a direct result of the publications, donations for the project have been received. It was decided that we should contact the local civic groups and ask to speak at one of their meetings
Because garden clubs do not have the appropriate tax status and we wanted contributors to receive a tax write-off, the park board set up a special account for us where all the money is deposited and donations are made payable to the Rec Board. When we apply for grants it has to be done under the umbrella of the Park Board. Some of the club members voiced a concern about this procedure but there is a 3 way check on the bookkeeping. The project chairperson receives the donation and records the amount, the financial chairperson receives the donation card and sends a thank you note and the park board finance director deposits the money into the account.
May and June 2013
The first drawing from the architect had too many structures and not enough nature. The second drawing was the one we decided to work with; however, we have made some changes.
Gateway Garden Club has a plant sale as its main fundraiser each year so at the sale we were able to introduce hundreds of people to our project.
During these months, we received our first donation of $25, then a $5000 grant and an interview on two local talk shows. We also had articles and pictures published in two local newspapers.
July 2013 - December 2013
Although we were eager to get things started, we soon realized that many hours of preparation were ahead of us before the first shovel of dirt could be moved, We knew that this project would prove to be a wonderful asset to our community but donations were coming in slowly. Then we received the financial endorsement of a local food chain and an “in-kind” pledge from a local business that gave us the boost we needed tokeep going!
It was time to kick into high gear. A meeting with a representative from the local Audubon Society, lunch with the Children’s Librarian and a discussion with the local conservation representative proved to be invaluable.
We followed a suggestion that we should contact the Job Corps. After meeting with our engineer and understanding our vision, they enthusiastically agreed to partner with us on the construction. They want their students to be involved with creative projects such as ours while they practice the construction skills they are learning in class.
We prepared the paperwork for a$6,000 Garden Council Grant that would help with the skeletal landscaping of the garden. We should know soon if we will receive this money.
We created a Facebook page for the garden where we will post pictures and updates as the construction begins.
We are planning to put the project out to bid soon and construction should begin by June. We have now raised about $20,000 and just found out yesterday that a family has decided to sponsor the entire Dinosaur Dig in memory of their mother. GREAT NEWS!
Our Garden Plan
The garden will cover one fifth of an acre. A fifteen foot high mountain will be encircled by a four foot wide path from which children can access the activity niches
- Tiny Tot, Dinosaur Dig, and Butterfly Garden. Also, a Hobbit House and Peter Rabbit’s Story area. Each niche will be appropriately landscaped to attract birds and butter flies while birdhouses, bird baths, bird-feeders and color will abound.
Children will climb large boulders to reach the lookout tower with a telescope at the top of the mountain. Most of the garden will be handicapped accessible,
Two elementary schools that are within walking distance of the garden will be encouraged to use the garden as an outdoor classroom.
What have we learned about attempting a large project?
People love our concept but money has not come in as we hoped because the project hasn’t begun. Seeing is believing.
I. If you are excited about a project, you CAN speak in public.
2. Ask ………….You might be told“yes”.
3. Interesting projects can bring new members to your club. Two women have joined our club because of this project and the third will join us in June.
4. Every little bit helps!(money, ideas, products)
5. Large projects can be an exercise in rejection and disappointment. We need to encourage each other and remind ourselves that things don’t happen overnight.
6. Our clubs need to have the necessary tax status if costly projects are attempted.
7. Set your goals high and don’t stop until you get there!
8. Don’t always go to the obvious places for help. Share your ideas with any one who will listen.
To be continued (keep your fingers crossed for us)