Monday, September 5, 2011

The Case for a Botanical Garden in War Memorial Park

Several years ago, the City of Little Rock paid consultants a good amount of money to make recommendations for War Memorial Park, an underused city park in a great, central location.  After lots of public meetings, the consultants came out with their recommendations.  One of the main recommendations was that the golf course should be closed and converted to non-designated use open space, the idea being that many more people would make use of that area for picnics, walks, bike rides, and tossing frisbees and footballs, than the small number of people who currently play golf there.
One recommendation I made at those public meetings and would like to expand on here is that Little Rock should build a Botanical Garden in War Memorial Park.  Here are some reasons why I think this would be a good idea:

1.  An open botanical garden would count as non-designated use open-space, which consultants said would get the most use by area residents.  Add to that that golf is in a long decline and War Memorial typically loses more money than the other public golf courses in Little Rock.
2.  At 50+ acres, the western part of War Memorial Park is comparable in size to botanical gardens around the country. 
3.  Fayetteville has a botanical garden and Little Rock doesn't.
4.  A botanical garden in War Memorial would have a natural connection to the nearby zoo.  People interested in animals are often also interested in plants.
5.  An open botanical garden would be relatively affordable to build.  Very little trailwork would be needed, as there are already paved asphalt trails there thanks to the golf course.
6.  UALR should have a botanical garden and greenhouses for educational and research purposes.  War Memorial Park is close to the University and will eventually be connected to it by the Coleman Creek Greenway.  Having a partner in funding the botanical garden would make it even more affordable for the city.
7.  A botanical garden in that location would give people visiting nearby hospitals a scenic, peaceful place to relax.
8.  With a creek, pond and drier, rockier areas uphill from those water features, the park could easily host a wide range of plant species.  There are already lots of native plant species present, and this diversity should increase with the trail improvements currently underway along Coleman Creek.
9.  It would be awesome to see 200' Dawn Redwoods, Incense Cedars, and other exotic (but non-invasive) tree species towering over the park.  These would make interesting landmarks visible from the Interstate.

View Little Rock Botanical Gardens in a larger map

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