The Ohio State University Extension Office and the Master Gardeners of Clark County are planning to move their horticulture education gardens from Gateway Boulevard to a five-acre site at the former Snyder Park Golf Course.
The organization will begin preparing land for gardens next spring and will be storing gardening equipment inside one of the National Trail Parks and Recreation District’s storage sheds, said NTPRD director Leann Castillo. However, no formal agreement has been reached on office space at this point.
“I get goose bumps every time I think about the opportunity we have,” said OSU Extension Director Pam Bennett. “There’s not anything like this in Ohio in terms of a Master Gardener volunteer organization having something of this scale.”
NTPRD will still manage the 83-acre site, Bennett said, but Master Gardeners will be in charge of the five-acre formal horticulture area.
“There are a lot of ideas out there on what the whole site could look like, but there’s nothing concrete at this point other than the fact that we’re putting our plans on paper this summer,” Bennett said.
The OSU Extension Offices recently moved from the Clark County Agricultural Services Building, 4400 Gateway Blvd., to new offices at the Springview Government Center, 3130 E. Main St. They moved to make room for a private company, Konecranes, to use the Gateway building for a training center. The Gateway Learning Gardens were expected to move to Springview until the Snyder Park site became available, Bennett said.
The biggest piece of the puzzle is formulating a master plan for the five-acre site at Snyder Park, Bennett said.
“It’s not going to be a garden that looks like it does now,” Bennett said. “It would be great if we could pick it up and move it over here, but that would cost a lot of money to do. We’re just going to start from scratch. Our volunteers are excited; they’re behind it and they’re willing to put work into it. Our goal is to leave a legacy for Clark County.”
NTPRD is taking its time to properly develop the remainder of land, Castillo said.
“Right now, we’re just mowing the area,” Castillo said. “We have a lot of people who are walking it and jogging it. We want to make sure we do it the right way.”
The relocated gardens can be very attractive for the city, said Mayor Warren Copeland.
“Obviously, closing the golf course was a really tough decision, but there may well be some things that can be done there for the community if there can’t be golf there,” Copeland said.
The Springfield Rotary Club recently opened a $300,000 all-inclusive playground near the former golf course and a sprayground is also being planned for the area. The garden will only add to the momentum being built in the park, Castillo said.
“It will become more of a destination,” Castillo said.
The NTPRD board voted to close the course this year in January.
“It was strictly a financial decision,” Castillo said.
The Master Gardeners then sent a proposal to the NTPRD board in February. The Hollandia Botanical Garden also expressed interest in the land at the former golf course, but hasn’t made a formal proposal at this point, Castillo said.
The Master Gardeners’ general membership approved the move in March by an overwhelming margin, Bennett said.
The garden will be based around the former clubhouse building, which has been renamed the Snyder Park Activities Center. It is currently being used for programming. The OSU Extension office is hoping to have office space on site, but no formal agreement has been reached at this point, Bennett said.
The former Gateway Garden and Victory Garden will be shut down later this year. The group will bring some plants and the memorial brick pavers, Bennett said, but won’t move large plants or trees.
The organization is excited about the move, said Master Gardener volunteer Missy Hawley.
“This is going to be a legacy for Clark County,” Hawley said. “What we want to do is preserve the history of this great park. We know there’s a lot of emotion behind this, but we want to do the best we can to preserve the history for the Snyder Park.”
This fall, the Master Gardeners will begin preparing trial beds and tilling land for the Victory Garden, which grows food donated to local pantries, in order to plant vegetables next spring.
The group has wanted closure after the announcement the Gateway gardens were set to close, said Master Gardener volunteer Terry Reed. The Gateway Gardens opened 15 years ago, Reed said.
“It’s been coming on for two years,” Reed said. “We’re excited to come (to Snyder Park).”
The move isn’t expected to cost much, Bennett said — except for physical labor and time.
They’re also planning to keep memorials from the former Snyder Park Golf Course at their garden location, possibly in the form of a memorial garden, Castillo said.
“We want to honor what was here before,” Bennett said.
Sticking with the story
The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about the possible relocation of the Gateway Gardens since the story first broke in 2012.