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A County garden will explore sensory experiences for everyone

By Staff | Nov 13, 2014

Chris Dorward, Master Gardener from Muncy and Carol Loveland from the Penn State Co-op Extension office stand beside the landscape drawings and plans for the new Sensory Garden that broke ground on October 22 on County Farm Road.

MONTOURSVILLE – Just like interior decorating, gardening can also be a form of outside decorating. Planned, innovative, colorful and imaginative design will provide an opportunity to experience a multitude of senses. That point taken, a worthwhile project began for Muncy resident Chris Dorward.

With her vision and the help of others through the Lycoming County Master Gardeners, a sensory garden is now in progress so that everyone can have access to it and experience a better sense of well being.

“The sensory garden concept came from the field of horticulture therapy,” Dorward announced at its future site located on County Farm Road when the ground was officially broken on October 22.

Funding became available through the Act 13 Mini-Grant program. Another $18,000 was given by the county commissioners along with the land according to Commissioner Jeff Wheeland who was at the ceremony to encourage the community to use the 5 thousand square foot garden. Wheeland met with Dorward and the sensory garden committee a year ago. “It’s priceless here,” he said. “This is your garden.” Private donors also contributed and 5 thousand dollars was given in materials and in-kind services by the Lycoming County Conservation District.

Wheeland also applauded the location stating that there was a captive workforce to help at the pre-release center. They are building a pergola and some benches. The county maintenance department will also assist. They recently installed water and electricity to the site which completed phase one of the project.

An official ground breaking ceremony was held to introduce the County's new Sensory Garden that will be a collaborative effort with Lycoming county, Master Gardeners, the Conservation District, the Pre-release center, Boy Scout troop 21, and the Planning Commission.

Another amenity is the nearby Conservation District’s Learning Trail and the existing Master Gardeners demonstration gardens. Everything is open to the public free of charge using taxpayers money emphasized Wheeland. “This land is on county property.”

The Lycoming County Audubon Society is also assisting on the project and Jenny Picciano, an environmental planner from the Lycoming County Planning Commission. “This has been, and will continue to be a collaborative effort,” said Dorward. “The Sensory Garden will have plenty of opportunity here for learning and recreation, and provide a sense of well being and health.”

According to Dorward sensory gardens have become a worldwide movement. Plants are chosen for color, texture, and fragrance. Other elements are added for sound and visual enhancement, and shapes for unique form. There will be an interactive “human sundial”, visual and braille signs, a living teepee, hopscotch squares, a dry streambed and a vine covered tunnel. Plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds will increase enjoyment of the garden. Pathways provide areas for reflection and solitude. Chimes and gazing balls, fountains and arbors will all be added for sensory stimulation.

Raised beds will be helpful for those in wheelchairs and the elderly, and there will be a digging area for children. Large swaths of color, guide ropes and rails will be utilized for the visually impaired. There will be things to touch and “attractive destinations” that will include “hidden treasures” among many creative elements.

“It has been a process,” Dorward said. “This will be all inclusive and beneficial for everyone including those with mental and physical challenges.”

Dorward works in occupational therapy for special needs children and immediately saw the benefit of the sensory garden. She became a Master Gardener herself and did not hesitate to bring her research to the members. Carol Loveland, their director from the Penn State Co-op Extension office praised the committee for their vision and gave support the entire way. “We had many brainstorming sessions with the committee,” she said, “and changes can be made as we go along.”

Linda Betts, Master Gardener from the committee said, “This will be open to the public 24/7.” She also said they are popular in England, but more difficult to find around here.

Carol Mordan, a retired teacher from Muncy, who also serves on the committee said, “We have so many children out there with special needs who can benefit from this.” She pointed to an area that will have a figure 8 walking path where concrete will be poured soon. This will be done first, then the dry creek bed, raised beds, and an arbor.

The entire project will cost $50,000 and will take two years to complete. Progress can be followed on their Facebook page.

Monetary, labor, and tangible gifts are welcome and can be sent to Lycoming County Master Gardeners, Lysock View Complex, 542 County Farm Road, Montoursville, PA 17754.