If all goes according to plan, construction crews could break ground in spring on a new, “whimsical” leisure area that would serve as an outdoor extension of Milton Public Library programs.
Preliminary designs for the “story gardens” call for a gazebo, stage and multiple gardens tucked into the green space between the library and the Milton School District office.
Library Director Lisa Brooks said certain features could change places as plans move forward.
A subcommittee for the project met Monday at the library and discussed ways to make the story gardens more “whimsical” than a standard park. Suggestions included a pirate ship playground, asymmetrical gates and funky gazebo architecture.
The subcommittee will meet again Jan. 15 to find the right balance between unconventional and traditional designs.
City Administrative Service Director Inga Cushman, who led Monday’s meeting, said the city and library began researching the project in January. They received a $10,000 grant from a local foundation that asked to remain anonymous, as well as other grants from Wal-Mart, Alliant Energy and Scotts Miracle-Gro, she said.
Brooks said the library uses the green space for food truck days, Quidditch matches and other events that routinely draw several hundred people. But library staff members thought they could do more.
“We decided we wanted another space for the library to do programs as well as just a beautiful park area that anybody could use anytime,” Brooks said.
The library’s recent renovations added interior classroom space for science, technology, engineering, art and math activities. The story gardens will bring some of that learning capacity outdoors, she said.
For example, a retired biology teacher wanted to do a hands-on lesson on pollination, Brooks said. Such a lesson would fare better amid the story gardens’ many flower beds instead of inside a room.
The project is estimated to cost $250,000 to $300,000. The plan is to finance the story gardens through grants and donations, which Brooks considered a realistic goal.
Some subcommittee members took inspiration from a similar project in Sheboygan, known as Bookworm Gardens. That park re-creates the settings of several well-known children’s books to put visitors inside the literary world.
Milton’s own ideas are extensive. Beyond the gazebo, stage and flower beds are plans for art installations, reading areas and a “bone yard” where kids can channel their inner archaeologist.
“We said, ‘Let’s go for it with our plans with what we’d really like to see and then go from there,’” Brooks said. “Instead of shooting for something small, we wanted to shoot for the best use of the space that we could.”