On Friday, September 16, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schoharie and Otsego Counties (CCE) along with the Master Gardeners of Otsego County (MG) held a groundbreaking celebration for their joint effort, Grow with Cornell Cooperative Extension Garden Project, at the extension’s Cooperstown office at 123 Lake Street.
“When completed, we will take the dirt and gravel parking lot of the CCE building and convert it to into sustainable gardens and landscapes which immerse participants and visitors in an accessible education environment with multiple learning opportunities. At the same time we hope to create an aesthetically pleasing, learning environment,” said Liz Callahan, Executive Director of CCE and this project.
“The garden site will incorporate raised beds, low-maintenance and native plants, pollinator gardens, annual and perennial flowerbeds, vegetable and kitchen gardens, small fruit planting demonstrations, and more,” she said.
The project calls for improving the site: adding necessary infrastructure and improved parking and lightning; creating a rain garden to demonstrate surface water remediation before it leaves the site; building a garden house for instruction, preparation, and storage; building garden fences, benches, and gateway arbors; installing hardscape pavers connected to public walkways and the CCE Education and Outreach Center.
“We will also be erecting educational signage. This will develop places for education, quiet reflection, and active gardening,” Ms. Callahan said.
“The genesis for this project was nine years ago when a group of master gardeners sat around a dining room table and asked each other why cars instead of plants merited the best sunlight in our modest parking lot gardens.” Said Pati Grady, a member of Master Gardeners and a spokesperson for the group for this project.
“That conversation led to some soul-searching discussion of how to approach the challenge of transforming a pothole-riddled parking lot used by the state highway department snowplows and school buses to turn around, and for sheriff’s vehicles to set up speed traps, into a place of learning through gardening,” Ms. Grady said.
That led to the group approaching Bob Sutherland, a former Professor of Horticulture at SUNY Cobleskill and subsequently his colleague, Tim Marten, Professor of Horticulture at SUNY Cobleskill, who suggested processes exploring potential design and feasibility of the project.
“In April 2014, teams from SUNY Cobleskill and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry worked with the MG volunteers to assess needs, order priorities, and dream big dreams without constraints,” she said.
Over time, $10,000 was obtained both from CCE and MG volunteers as seed money to get the project started. Then State Senator Jim Seward secured $150,000 of grants from New York State to cover costs. Unfortunately, the final state funding never came through.
“The money was then raised from local donors and sources so that the project could begin. It is felt this will cover about 80% of the final cost of the project,” Ms. Grady said.
Demolition and initial construction will be carried out this fall by Kevin Green, Frank Novak, and Scott Ubner. In the spring, the garden house is to be built by Bert Holmes and Dan Evans, followed by the planting of flowerbeds and the rain garden by MG. Students from the Cooperstown Graduate Program will help to design the signage and work on the educational program.
With luck, Grow with Cornell Cooperative Extension Garden Project will complete principal construction in the middle of 2023 with initial growth and educational programs completed by 2024. It will be a welcome addition to Cooperstown.