Ohio State University-Clark County Extension and its Master Gardeners will hold their last annual Gateway Garden Jubilee on Saturday.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” said Pam Bennett, master gardener coordinator and extension educator of horticulture at OSU Extension.
The jubilee has taken place for the last 15 years at the Gateway Learning Garden, which is located in PrimeOhio Corporate Park, but it will stop because of the move of the offices to Springview Government Center, 3130 E. Main St.
Bennett said future jubilees will be on hold until everything is up and running at the new site, a source of friction between Master Gardeners and some county leaders.
The free, family oriented jubilee runs Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and is open to the public. Free hot dogs, popcorn and beverages will be available.
Demonstrations start at 9 a.m. and will last throughout the day. More than 800 different plants will be displayed, vegetable tastings are planned and several vendors will attend, including Bonnie’s Nursery and Garden Center and Meadow View Growers. Music will be provided by Loosely Strung Band.
“It’s such a celebratory atmosphere,” Bennett said. “Everybody here is really focused on enjoying the venue.”
Each year, more than 1,500 people from all over the state attend the event.
“I think there is going to be some emotions involved by our volunteers at the end of the event,” said Bennett. “We’ve been connected to the gardens for a long time.”
As the last jubilee comes to an end, focusing on the controversial move will be the next. The need to move came after Clark County commissioners John Detrick and Richard Lohnes voted 2-1 to lease the agricultural building to Konecranes Region America, which will add jobs and bring more people to the area for training.
Clark County received a $400,000 Ohio Department of Development innovation loan to assist with the OSU Extension move and the renovation of Springview.
According to Detrick, it will cost about $650,000 to make Springview a good place for the offices.
Konecranes is expected to bring up to 40 new jobs to Clark County.
“It’s really a shot in the economic arm of Clark County,” said Detrick.
Bids were opened Thursday on renovating the ground floor of Springview, where the new offices will be.
Other departments, including the Soil and Water Conservation office, will also be moved to the ground floor once it is renovated.
OSU Extension is expected to move around the first of the year.
“We’re a little behind schedule, but we will be getting it done shortly,” said Clark County Administrator Nathan Kennedy.
Some of the controversy surrounding OSU Extension’s move is whether the gardens will move, too.
Kennedy said commissioners have directed that the gardens will stay where they are.
“If the board wants me to move them, I will see what I can do to find the money to do so,” said Kennedy.
However, Ron Kurth, president of Master Gardeners, said if the gardens stay at the Konecranes site, there is “no interest in maintaining the gardens.”
Master Gardeners would like the funding for irrigation and a storage barn from Clark County commissioners if they cannot provide the funding to move the gardens. Organization members can move the gardens on their own.
“The gardens must go with us one way or another,” said Kurth.
According to an information sheet that is expected to be given to visitors at Saturday’s event, the award-winning Gateway Garden has had an economic impact on Clark County of more than $4 million from more than 27,000 visitors and brought 12 jobs to the area since the gardens were first created in 1998.
The gardens have hosted more than 10 international tours, bringing in more than 300 international visitors and more than 75 percent of the national visitors had never visited Clark County before.
“Our biggest mission is to educate the public on horticulture … the gardens are a teaching tool,” said Kurth.