Growing the garden
GBBG celebrates completion of new children’s garden
By Janelle Fisher
City Pages Editor
After breaking ground last spring and nearly a full year of construction, the Green Bay Botanical Garden (GBBG) celebrates the grand opening of the new and improved Carol and Bruce Bell Children’s Garden today.
Garden members, donors, community members and a group of first graders from De Pere’s Heritage Elementary gathered May 8 for a ribbon cutting to celebrate the momentous occasion.
Among those celebrating the completion of the new children’s garden was Lee Hansen, one of the founding members of GBBG.
“It’s just absolutely beyond belief,” he said. “We started with no land and no members and no budget…We raised money for the original master plan and the children’s garden was our first garden of the whole thing. We always had hopes that it would expand, but it really was the springboard.”
With the children’s garden a central focus from the beginning, Hansen described the experience of seeing the new space come to fruition as somewhat surreal.
“Those of us that are founders, it’s so nice that a number of us are still very active after all these years,” he said. “It’s like we’re dreaming, you know, it’s just a dream come true.”
Hansen said he hopes the new children’s garden allows future generations to continue to utilize and enjoy GBBG as he and the other founding members have.
“I feel it’s just going to help broaden our attendance, and the families are so important,” he said, “As many of the founders are aging, we just wanted to have the generations following us enjoying it. And there’s such a wonderful educational component through all of this, too.”
And that educational component, according to Director of Education and Guest Experience Linda Gustke, was no small undertaking as she and others sought to create educational materials to accompany the new space.
“We’ve been wanting to refresh our curriculum — to take another look at it — for a number of years, because it’s always good, of course, to look at what you’re doing and just make sure it’s the best that it can be,” she said. “So with the new children’s garden giving us new spaces to explore and new educational opportunities, that was just a perfect time for us to bring in some outside folks that are also in the classroom and know what teachers want when they come on a field trip. So it was really fantastic to be able to, throughout the full project, bring in some consultants from CESA 7 and bring in an education task force of board members and community members to just help guide us and direct us and make sure that we were creating content that is relevant and going to be useful for years and years.”
Gustke said the new space improves on the educational offerings of the original children’s garden thanks in part to the increase in size.
“Just sheerly by having more space to explore — we went from half an acre to two and a half acres, so it’s five times as big — there are a lot more stories that we can tell,” she said. “So when we were in the original children’s garden, there were some smaller packets of stories here and there — treehouses, mazes, a little pond. But now it feels even more education-focused and the intention behind all of the spaces… You can see it shine through and you’re learning and you don’t even know you’re learning a lot of times, and that’s the best way to do it.”
While elements of the original Nielsen Children’s Garden remain nestled within the new space, including Mr. McGregor’s Garden, the maze and the koi pond, several new sculptures and installations have been added to the space, bringing with them an abundance of educational opportunities.
Among the new installations are the Chromatic Passage sculpture by Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee, the “Bird Seed” sculpture by Matthew Mazotta, the Rain Drop Garden, a splash pad, new treehouses and a tunnel and cave play area.
“I absolutely love, in the field, the cedar waxwing on the reeds and the berries and poop on the ground, because talking about poop with kids is always fun,” Gustke said. “But then telling them it has a really great purpose, and those seeds are actually off to some of the best starts by being dropped off by some birds… I really love the treehouse, too. We had a treehouse in the original children’s garden which all the kids love, and now they get some more vantage points and can get a little bit higher off the ground.”
Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich was also in attendance at the ribbon cutting, congratulating GBBG on its accomplishment and its role in the community.
“The botanical garden is such a gem, I think, for this community, and has always been a place for kids and families to gather,” he said. “But this kind of just takes things to a really incredible level.”
Genrich said he’s been excited for the opening of this special space and looks forward to seeing members of the community explore it.
“I’ve been enjoying driving past it and kind of peeking at things as it’s been coming together,” he said. “I don’t know that anyone other than those who were very involved in the design and construction understood exactly how special this was going to be. This is great for the community and for kids and families that are going to be able to take advantage of it.”
Terri Trantow, GBBG board chair, emphasized the role the more than 450 donors who contributed to the project, including more than 300 children and families through GBBG’s Nature Nurtures campaign, played not only in making the new children’s garden possible, but in shaping the future of GBBG.
“Because of [Carol and Bruce Bell’s] generosity and the generosity of so many donors, this project is the beginning of the future for the Green Bay Botanical Garden,” she said. “Your gifts not only build this garden and help develop new curriculum, but it ensures the Garden’s relevancy as an outdoor learning environment for years to come… Our community can discover new ways to learn and play in the outdoors. This is an important next step for the Garden, and together we’re creating an experience that cultivates wonder, nurtures the roots of all people and creates memories that will last a lifetime.”