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New master plan for WCROC Horticulture Display Garden revealed

MORRIS - In the last 11 years, staff and volunteers at the West Central Research and Outreach Center's Horticulture Display Garden have funded and implemented the vision created in the garden's first master plan.

With help from the original landscape architect, the 13-member Horticulture Advisory Committee have developed a second master plan for the garden, which was presented to garden supporters at the garden's donor recognition dinner on Wednesday night.

When Jason Aune, a landscape architect with LBH, worked on the garden's first master plan in 1999, the goal was to create a metaphor or main organizing principal for the garden. The result was meandering path that winds through the middle of the garden, echoing the curves of the Pomme de Terre river. The original plan also included the Children's Garden and overlook to the river itself.

"In going through the master plan process, I get to dream and design and draw up all the pretty pictures, and sometimes you wonder 'Is this really going to be implemented? Are they really going to have the money to do this?'" said Aune. "Out of all the master plan processes I've worked on, this one has had the most implemented. ... This plan wasn't just a pretty picture. It didn't just sit on the shelf."

In reviewing the master plan, Aune and the committee considered whether the goals of the original plan and whether it aligns with the current uses - "The place is constantly changing, so you have to change your plan to accommodate the popularity of the place," explained Aune.

The new master plan reflects several principles for how the garden is used and to improve the human experience in the garden, no matter what purpose the visitor has.

Structurally, the new master plan tries to organize the garden into outdoor rooms along the existing path, so visitors would know when they are moving between spaces, said Aune. The plan also encourages plants of different ages and sizes and areas for mass plantings to "create visually powerful landscapes."

The new master plan also reaches outside the boundaries of the garden, replacing the pine trees near the WCROC administration building with an outdoor gathering space and wetland for stormwater cleansing.

To help visitors reach the garden, the new plan includes a pedestrian tunnel under Highway 329 towards the parking lot and proposed native tree alley towards the Pomme de Terre overlook.

The "heart" of the new master plan is a new pavilion and plaza on the west end of the garden, which would include restrooms and kitchen facilities for hosting events in the garden.

Space along the main paths through the garden will be divided into different outdoor rooms, which will include space for donor gardens to be added in a more organized way, Aune explained.