Penn State Arboretum to break ground on children’s garden in April

By late spring of next year, the Penn State Arboretum will feature a Children’s Garden about one-acre in size with a ridge and valley theme to mimic central Pennsylvania’s topography.

“We hope to have construction start in late April and significant work completed by Dec. 18,” said Kate Reeder, events and marketing coordinator for the arboretum. “The plantings in the garden will be done in the spring prior to the opening.”

Penn State spokeswoman Rebekka Coakley said the board of trustees approved the construction at a meeting earlier this week that will cost $3.6 million.

Reeder said the project is funded through “private philanthropy” from Edward and Helen Hintz, and Charles “Skip” Smith.

Coakley added that the endowment would also go toward garden maintenance and the development of educational programs that will target children ages 3 to 12.

According to the arboretum, the garden will be created as an interactive site where children can “explore the natural world.” It was initially part of the 2002 master plan for the arboretum, which opened in 2009.

Coakley said the Children’s Garden is being developed to help children and adults “understand their connection to nature and the environment.”

Each year, Reeder estimates that 200,000 people visit the arbortum and this will increase their attendance.

“It will be the only children’s garden in central Pennsylvania so not only do we think it will get a good public response, but educate the public of their surroundings,” Reeder said.

According to a report from Coakley, the project is being led by Fort Collins, Colo.-designer Emmanuel Didier from Didier Design Studios, that will include an entry court near the Overlook Pavilion with a biofiltrate system for three pools and large glass panels casting colors over the threshold to the garden.

“The result is going to be exceptional and unique to Penn State, and a wondrous place for kids and a fascinating garden for adults,” said Kim Steiner, arboretum director.

The arboretum free to the public, parking is free, and is open from dawn until dusk every day.