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Center breaks ground

Anyone in the crowd, including students from Park Maitland School, were welcome to grab a shovel and join in on the groundbreaking for the environmental learning center at Mead Botanical Garden on Wednesday, Feb. 2.

Anyone in the crowd, including students from Park Maitland School, were welcome to grab a shovel and join in on the groundbreaking for the environmental learning center at Mead Botanical Garden on Wednesday, Feb. 2.

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Roxanne the turtle helped begin a new chapter of Mead Botanical Garden’s blossoming future — the renovation and restoration process of the old maintenance barn.

Elementary students from Park Maitland School joined the Florida Box turtle — Winter Park’s version of Punxsutawney Phil — at the ground-breaking ceremony for the environmental learning center at Mead Garden on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2.

The Friends of Mead Garden, established in 2003, has been working toward developing the 47.5-acre Denning Drive park into a place that connects the community and boosts economic development.

As summer rapidly approaches, the Friends’ focus is transforming what used to be the old maintenance barn into Discovery Place, a meeting location for the children during summer camp programming. It will have natural ventilation, solar panels and a shade wrapping around the exterior.

Friends of Mead Garden President Jeffrey Blydenburgh has high hopes that Discovery Place will provide children with a sense of ownership.

“When the kids come to camp here, this will be their hangout, the place where there are lockers and lunch tables,” Blydenburgh said.

Discovery Place should be ready in time for summer camp sessions, which begin in June.

On Nov. 22, the Winter Park City Commission pledged at least $200,000 per year to fund the park starting in 2012. The city also OK’d the leasing of its former maintenance facility to the Friends group, and to put in place a fee structure that would benefit the garden. The extra funding would be in addition to the $100,000 per year the city already pays for the park.

Also at the meeting, the Commission accepted a $150,000 donation from Winter Park-based firm Winderweedle, Haines, Ward & Woodman for capital improvements to the garden.

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Last Wednesday, Blydenburgh and Parks and Recreation Director John Holland thanked the roughly 50 Winter Park volunteers gathered at the ceremony.

“Somebody once said it takes a village, and it’s really true. It just can’t happen without all of you,” Blydenburgh said.

Holland, who featured a comically large top hat, spoke proudly of the group’s progress.

“This is a long-term plan that we’ve been putting together,” he said. “The Friends of Mead Garden have been onboard for a number of years and have helped us work through the master plan for this area, and now they’re helping us put that plan into play.”

“I’m just very proud of the Friends of Mead Garden. They’ve been wonderful to work with. They’re well-organized and working well with us.”

Alice Mikkleson, Friends board member, is the “chief weeder.” She’s been working on the garden’s upkeep for eight years now and is thrilled to see its progress.

“I just think it’s a beautiful place, and it needs some TLC, and that’s what honestly got me started,” Mikkleson said.


For information on helping sustain the botanical garden, e-mail Alice Mikkleson at info@meadgarden.org

Laurence F. Taylor of Architectural Photography published a book of a compilation of landscape shots, macro and wide-angle, that he photographed of Mead Garden. Limited number of books available, contact Taylor at 407-645-2005 or e-mail at tap2taylor@earthlink.net or visit his website TaylorArchitecturalPhotography.com

The Duck Derby is Saturday, Feb. 19 at the Mead Botanical Garden. Contact Marcia Frey at info@meadgarden.org for more information.