Wisdom sprouts in garden Nature lovers want arboretum fully utilized

June 17, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Environmental education and plant preservation can peacefully co-exist at Greenway Gardens, Carroll County nature lovers decided Tuesday night.

"We have a lot of uses that would work well together," horticulturist Steve Bogash said to nearly 60 people at the first meeting of Friends of Greenway Gardens.

"My personal vision is, now that we've got an arboretum, to keep the arboretum, open it as an arboretum and have the meeting space open to anybody," said the FOGG founder, former owner of Greener Horizons and an instructor with Carroll Community College and the Cooperative Extension Service.

The 27-acre property in southern Carroll County, formerly owned by Dorothy Lee "Dottie" and Zeeger deWilde, operated as a regionally renowned arboretum and botanical garden for 18 years.

The state Board of Public Works purchased the property last fall for $450,000 and now is leasing it to Carroll County for up to 21 years. Greenway's gardens, arboretum and greenhouses have been closed for three years and fell into disrepair awaiting the state's eventual purchase.

Other uses discussed Tuesday night included classes in botany and landscaping for Carroll Community College, fish hatchery demonstrations for Trout Unlimited and agricultural and water quality research projects for the University of Maryland's extension agency.

"The single most funded research projects are on water quality," said extension agent Tom Ford, advocating grants from the chemical and landscaping industries to support the gardens financially.

Mr. Bogash has estimated that the group must raise $150,000 to $250,000 to open the arboretum to the public and hire three full-time staff members.

"We have to look at this creatively," Mr. Ford said. "We have to look at raising the money privately and letting the county maintain control."

After the state lease agreement is completed in a few weeks, county officials plan to let groups use the meeting rooms and schedule programs and tours in the park.

Eventually, as Greenway's volunteer base grows, the gardens will be open on a daily basis.

"We have caretakers in place, but they have other jobs," said county Recreation and Parks Director Richard Soisson.

"A lot of times, there's not going to be anybody there, and you can't let people wander in and do what they want to do.

"All the county nature centers started the same way. They had a building and started to get volunteers and then built into what they are now."

But that plan isn't moving quickly enough for Mr. Bogash.

"We've been told that we only have permission to maintain the property, and that's not good enough for me," he said.

"We want to be able to enjoy it as well, and that's a big difference.

"If John and Melinda [Byrd, the caretakers] are living in the house, then why can't we use the meeting rooms?"

Ms. Byrd is the county nature center administrator.

Questions were also raised by county commissioners Tuesday afternoon about the Byrds' caretaker agreement.

$100 a month

In exchange for scheduling programs and groups, mowing two acres around the home and tending the expansive gardens, the couple will live on the property for $100 a month.

The Byrds will not be responsible for the greenhouses or the arboretum, Mr. Soisson said.

"We valued the place at $900 a month if we were to rent it to anyone," he said. "We think we'll be getting $800 worth of work out of them."

However, Commissioners Julia W. Gouge and Donald I. Dell said the arrangement was too generous.

"That's a fantastic deal if that's all they have to do for their money," Ms. Gouge said.

Mr. Soisson said the one-year agreement was modeled after the county's other caretaker leases, in which the caretaker merely lives on the property, receives visitors and schedules programs for $100 to $150 a month.

"Most of the other caretakers don't have to do maintenance," he said. "I honestly think we'll keep them pretty busy."

Ms. Gouge responded, "Well, maybe our other agreements are too generous as well."

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