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Wylde Center planning $2.8 million renovations to four of its gardens

Decatur Metro ATL

Wylde Center planning $2.8 million renovations to four of its gardens

The Wylde Center plans to improve four of its gardens, including Oakhurst Garden in Decatur. Photo courtesy of the Wylde Center.

Decatur, GA — The Wylde Center is working to improve four of its gardens. The $2.8 million capital campaign includes significant renovations to Oakhurst Garden in Decatur.

The Wylde Center has five greenspaces – Oakhurst Garden, Edgewood Community Learning Center, Hawk Hollow, Mulberry Fields and Sugar Creek Garden. The total cost to improve all five sites is about $3.5 million. The improvements to Sugar Creek have been pushed to phase two of the capital plan so the Wylde Center can focus on the four gardens.

The center worked with David Sacks, a local landscape architect, to produce the initial drawings for the project. The staff asked for help addressing stormwater management issues on its sites.

“We wanted to make our sites more visible to the public and more inviting,” said Wylde Center Executive Director Stephanie Van Parys. “We also wanted to make them ADA compliant…and just more attractive to visitors, more obvious that you could get into this garden. Lastly, we needed the infrastructure to support our programs.”

Van Parys presented the plans for Oakhurst Garden to the Decatur City Commission on Monday, July 17.

Oakhurst Garden was established in 1997 and is the center’s oldest garden.

“It was established to create a safe space for children in the community to explore nature and to grow and prepare produce they had grown,” the case statement of the capital campaign states. “It has developed into a 1.25 acre area that is used for field trips, events and neighborhood use. The last significant updates to the space were made in 2005.”

The planned improvements for Oakhurst Garden include improving the entrance points, expanding the programming areas, addressing areas that are prone to flooding and renovating the house onsite that is used as an office and education facility. The estimated cost of the project is about $1.3 million. Most of the cost is related to renovating the house.

Van Parys said the house was built in the 1950s and has not been improved since then. The building will be gutted and renovated. The improvements will include adding a ramp to the front of the house.

“We will preserve the area in the front for the plants that we have available to the community,” Van Parys said. “We are adding a bump out, about 700 square feet, to this building.”

The additional square footage means the building will go from having two bathrooms to having four restrooms, one of which will be ADA accessible.

The center’s plant sale team will remain in offices in the house. There will be a new reception area, a new conference room, an improved kitchen, and an education room that would fit 35 students. Currently, the building can hold about 16 students.

Other staff members will be moving out of the building at Oakhurst Garden. Some staff members are located at Legacy Park and others will move to the Edgewood Garden.

The Wylde Center plans to renovate the house at Oakhurst Garden to improve accessibility and expand capacity. Photo courtesy of the Wylde Center.

There is currently a retention pond at Oakhurst Garden that was built in 2008. The retention pond has been underutilized. Instead of tearing it out, the Wylde Center plans to put a deck over it and convert it to an outdoor classroom.

The plans also upgrade the entrance to the garden and remove the current steps to create an easier access point to Oakhurst Garden. The entrance would look over the garden and be a more obvious viewpoint into the garden, Van Parys said.

“There’s also a path that comes down for strollers and wheelchairs to make it more accessible so that you don’t have to go flying down the driveway at the slope that it currently is,” she said.

In terms of stormwater, the Wylde Center plans to tear out the driveway at Oakhurst Garden and replace the bottom portion with permeable pavers. Bioswales will also be added to the site.

“We play an important role in stormwater management,” Van Parys said. “We have this big greenspace. It absorbs a lot of water. That’s something that our sites do for our cities.”

Eight trees will be removed from the garden and 16 trees will be planted back.

The project will be broken up into two phases. The Wylde Center is focused on renovating the building in phase one.

“The deck over the pond, the ditch is going to be moved to phase two capital campaign. We can’t quite do it in this current one, and the new entrance will be delayed until phase two,” Van Parys said. “We’re focused on the building, the driveway, and this remediation for stormwater in the back. This is going to be disruptive, and we want to do that before we put in this driveway.”

The Wylde Center plans to do site improvements in November and December and hopes to begin construction on the house in January 2024.

Portions of Oakhurst Garden will still be open during construction. Although field trips will be moved to other locations, like Edgewood Garden and Hawk Hollow, while renovations are being made in Oakhurst.

Here’s a look at some of the improvements planned for the Wylde Center’s other gardens:

– Edgewood Community Learning Center: building a chicken coop, improving the entrance points, expanding programming areas and addressing flooding issues.

– Hawk Hollow: adding a structure to provide protection from the weather.

– Mulberry Fields: planned improvements will focus on growing programs, environmental mitigation and making the space more inviting.

– Sugar Creek: adding an extensive boardwalk and support structures. Work to Sugar Creek is not part of the current capital campaign, however. The area is owned by the city of Decatur but is managed by the Wylde Center.

For more information about the capital campaign, click here.

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