The Master Gardeners of Clark County have started a fundraising campaign for its $360,000 first phase of work to transform a former golf course into the Snyder Park Gardens and Arboretum.
The overall renovation of Snyder Park will be a five-year, $2 million process, depending on donations the organization receives, said Pam Bennett, Master Gardeners director and horticulture educator for the Ohio State University Clark County Extension Office. The project is also seeking $50,000 in tax money from the local convention facilities authority.
The 25-acre community garden will be a one-stop shop for people to learn about plants and become healthier, she said.
“You can come down here and mentally just kind of reboot yourself in terms of walking through here; kind of enjoy nature,” Bennett said. “You can come down and exercise and walk through the garden paths.”
The golf course closed in 2014 after budget shortfalls but over the past few years the area has been renovated with a new bridge, splash pad, an accessible playground, a dog park and the community garden.
Another garden at Snyder Park in its first phase is the $224,000 Kiwanis/Hollandia Children’s Garden. So far, about $65,000 has been raised for that work.
Phase one of the Master Gardeners’ project will cost about $360,000 and so far about $190,000 has been raised, Bennett said. It includes a pavilion, Springfield Foundation Feature Garden, Early Ohio Settler’s Gardens, turf research plots, Garden of Eatin’, victory garden and perennial trial site.
Some of those are already in place, such as the settler’s and victory gardens, and others remain to be built, such as the pavilion and feature garden. The group hopes to have the first phase completed by 2018.
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The park also needs about $337,450 in infrastructure upgrades, Bennett said, such as an irrigation system, signage, electricity, site surveys, seating and construction drawings. It has secured about $48,500 for the work so far.
The Clark County Facilities Convention Authority voted last week to consider a $50,000 funding request for the proposed pavilion, but said they need more information from the Master Gardeners before making a final decision.
The CFA is funded by local hotel bed taxes and is tasked with supporting projects that lead to more overnight stays and tourism in Clark County. The pavilion is part of a larger development plan designed to attract weddings and other events, board members said.
But while they believe the project is beneficial, several board members were unsure whether the proposal meets the CFA’s mission to draw more people and increase the number of hotels stays by out-of-town visitors.
“It’s a neat idea,” Board member John Maurer said. “I don’t know if we’re the right funding source for the idea.”
It’s also possible the board could fund the project but do so over a period of several years, said Michael McDorman, president and CEO of the Chamber of Greater Springfield.
In its application, the Master Gardeners said it’s difficult to determine how many overnight stays the project could attract because the garden is still in the development stage. But the organization said it attracts some overnight visitors for activities like an annual Perennial School, and educational programs like a food summit, vegetable garden workshop and Master Gardener volunteer training.
The organization also said there are plans to partner with other public garden entities in the Midwest to develop a gardening circuit tour that could attract visitors.
Several members of the Master Gardeners of Clark County were at the gardens last week planting more than 4,000 flower bulbs and cleaning up for the fall.
More than 7,000 pounds of produce was grown there this summer and donated to a local food bank.
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