Fund Drive Seeks $200K For Garden Education Center

Fund Drive Seeks

$200K For Garden

Education Center

Project Includes Rain Garden,

Greek-Revival Meeting Shed

Here’s the plan the education center Otsego County Master Gardeners hope to construct on 1.3-acres at the Cooperative Extension property on Lake Street, Cooperstown.

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

COOPERSTOWN – Eight years in the planning, $200,000 in fundraising is beginning on an Education Center on Lake Street  to expand the offerings of Otsego County’s Master Gardeners organization.

“The ‘Grow With Cornell Cooperative Extension’ plan will reconfigure our grounds into a center for garden-based learning with an impact that will reach throughout our county,” said Jason Stone, board president of the Cooperative Extension of Schoharie & Otsego Counties, who operates a topiary garden on Bissell Road, Town of Otsego.

Here’s what the Cooperative Extension parking lot at 123 Lake St. looks like today.

The idea is to convert the pot-holed parking lot into a 1.3-acre campus that includes a Greek-Revival style garden shed, expanded floral and vegetable plantings and a rain garden that will strain impurities from runoff before in flows into nearby Otsego Lake, according to Pati Grady, Cooperstown, herself a Master Gardener and a member of the fundraising committee.

In addition to Stone and Grady, fundraising committee members include board member Bill Woodward, Oneonta;  Master Gardener Betsy Sywetz, Richfield Springs; Mohican Farms manager Bob Sutherland, and Don Smyser, Cooperative Extension executive director.

In an interview, Grady recounted how the planning began eight years ago with a charet, a planning process organized to elicit a wide range of inputs into a project.

The Master Gardeners, trained volunteers who in turn offer classes for would-be gardeners, is under the umbrella of Cooperative Extension; an annual plant sale is its major fundraiser.  It’s little known, Grady said, but Cornell actually provides no funding to the system it oversees.

“Our funding comes from state and federal sources and, importantly, from county government,” Stone said in a fundraising letter that will go out this week.  “It is necessary for us to seek funding from special projects like this one, independently.”

This is an artist’s rending of what the completed garden shed will look like.

Right now, Grady pointed out, the parking lot at 123 Lake St. isn’t very inviting much of the year, used as a snowplow turn-around and a place for police to set up speed traps.   When complete, the project will be an enticing year-’round magnet, she said.

Grady is particularly excited about its proximity to The Farmers’ Museum:  The museum focuses on historic gardening procedures; the education center will offer training in modern state-of-the-art gardening methods.

In the initial fundraising stage, individuals and organization will be approached for gifts, said Don Smyers.  Perhaps as soon as November, he said, the public phase of fundraising will begin.

There will be level of support, and naming opportunities, he said.  At any time, people interested in the concept may send tax-free contributions to Cornell Cooperative Extension, 123 Lake St., Cooperstown 13326.

Once complete, “we’ll be able to provide more hands-on education programs for knowledge and skill development in all aspect of gardening,” he said.

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