Reviewing plans

Blackland Research Center’s Zoe Rascoe, left, explains plans Tuesday to Diana Arldt-Roberts, center, and Brock Boone, executive director of the Cultural Activities Center, during a meeting about Bend O’ the River at the Temple Public Library.

After numerous meetings with city staff, a steering committee and community members, project managers and designers with SWA Group Houston were back in town Tuesday to offer a look at a draft of the Bend O’ the River Botanic Garden master plan.

Kinder Baumgardner, principal project manager, Michael Robinson, project manager, and Amna Ansari, project designer, met with interested members of the community at the library with examples of what the designers were considering for the Temple property.

The master plan should provide guidance over a 20- to 30-year period, but it needs to be flexible and be able to accommodate change, said Baumgardner.

Success breeds success, he said.

People will be curious about the garden, and if they like what they see, those people become advocates for the project and possibly donors, he said.

To come up with a plan requires considering the land, its history and its issues, Baumgardner said. A number of meetings were held and a lot of questions were asked leading up to the Tuesday meeting.

Bend O’ the River property has variety with elements that appeal to different groups, he said.

Robinson discussed the draft process, which included information culled from previous meetings.

The plan had to consider other botanical gardens in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Fort Worth.

“We don’t want to duplicate what’s going on in those gardens,” he said.

Also the type of gardens within the space needs to be determined — formal, floral, native, pollinator and sensory gardens.

Botanical gardens usually have gardens within gardens, it’s about variety, Baumgardner said.

The garden will be constructed in stages and will likely start with the remediation of contaminated soil at the front of the property.

Patrick Johnson of Nova Environmental talked about the contaminated soil.

The contaminates, antimony and arsenic, were windblown on to the site from industrial plant across the river, Johnson said. Ground water has not been affected.

Most of the contamination is shallow, no more than six inches deep, but there is a small area that will need to be excavated down 24 inches.

The cost to remove the soil will be $2.5 million to $3 million. It will cost $1.2 million to cap the site of contaminated soil with additional costs to monitor, Johnson said.

During a trip to the Dallas Arboretum and a discussion with the garden director, the project managers learned that on site space needs to be allotted for mulch and composting activities, as well as space to run plant trials to determine if plants can thrive on the property.

Ansari said the landscape architects were drawn to the topography of Bend o’ the River.

“We wanted to capture the captivating terrain,” she said.

Much of her work, Ansari said, has been to capitalize on the property’s attributes, including the preserved forests and the wetlands area.

Ansari suggests that a nature walk extend out into the preserved forest area.

Areas were zoned depending on the emphasis of the plans — passive, active or garden. Ansari also looked at the trees that would have to removed, particularly those in the contamination zone.

There are numerous elements that will have to be considered as the garden progresses — building paths wide enough and strong enough to support emergency vehicles or trucks supporting vendor operations, benches that offer protection from the sun.

Everyone likes the idea of having access to the river, but admissions is going to be a major revenue source for the garden and how to include people on the river involved with recreation has not been determined.

“We’ve talked about it a lot, we just haven’t figured it out,” Baumgardner said.

There were individuals at the meeting representing different areas of interests, including artists and birders.

This area is in the middle of some major flyways used by migratory birds, said Zoe Rascoe, Bend o’ the River steering committee member.

“There are people who will come here and want to see the birds as they go through,” Rascoe said.

About 50 people showed up to see what was being considered.

The final master plan will be unveiled to the public on Aug. 23.