By Jason Ha
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, April 15, 2011

The McIntire Botanical Garden is a non-profit organization founded to advocate the creation of a botanical garden in the eastern side of McIntire Park .

Last week the group invited four guest speakers to discuss the benefits a botanical garden could bring to the Charlottesville community.

“I think what today represents is that, in my mind, a happy convergence of two parallel conversations that have been going on here in the City of Charlottesville in the last couple years,” said Mayor David Norris , who was present with two other councilors, Kristin Szakos and Satyendra Huja .

Norris said this event was an excellent opportunity to discuss the future of the eastern side of the McIntire Park, location of the planned Meadowcreek Parkway .

During the two-hour-long presentation, the four panelists, who are all experts on botanical gardens, explained how the project would create many different opportunities and benefits for the community.

“I think it is the heart of what makes the community unique,” said Marsha Lea, a panelists and a fellow at the American Society of Landscape Architects.  She said the botanical garden will build a sense of community and create educational as well as recreational opportunities.

Other panelists said that a botanical garden will help preserve biodiversity and reinforce the human relationship with nature.

Keith Tomlinson, manager of Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, emphasized the power of the nature and shared his personal story about cancer survivors.

“We [cancer survivors] talk about the use of plants as the foundation of medications that many of these people are treated with,” said Tomlinson, “There is this direct connection.”

Kennon Williams, a landscape architect with Nelson Byrd Woltz, described how a botanical garden contributes to the preservation of biodiversity and educational opportunities for local students.

“The botanical garden is a great proposal for the world, on the sustainability standpoint [and] for Charlottesville in particular,” said Williams.

After the panelists spoke, the event was followed by a Q&A session.  The audience demonstrated strong interests in educational opportunities by asking a series of questions.  One audience said “I had so much information so well.”

Helen Flamini,  the McIntire Botanical Garden’s president, said in an email to Charlottesville Tomorrow that the project planning is ongoing.

“We continue to seek additional partners in both the public and private sector as we explore issues of sustainability, community involvement, and educational opportunities based on financial and economic models from other successful botanical gardens,” wrote Flamini.  “The McIntire Botanical Garden will…present its vision of creating a botanical garden in the park that will be an asset for the whole community.”

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