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First phase plans revealed for Smithgall Woodland Garden

POSTED: October 30, 2007 5:05 a.m.

Schaal’s first major garden at the site is the Enchanting Woodland Garden and includes two thematic trails, celebrating the elements of wind and sky.

The sky walk will give visitors a tree top view of the sky on a picturesque hillside.

He led a tour group on a walk through the site of the first phase, which has the outline of the visitor’s center marked at ground level.

Architect Steve Robinson presented renderings of the 5,000 square foot visitors center, which will include a large outdoor deck overlooking a pond.

Robinson plans to construct an environmentally friendly building that will capture rooftop rainfall to be fed into a rain garden and will use solar power to heat its public water.

The building will include the admission area, classroom and meeting space, gift shop, rest rooms, offices and storage.

Robinson, who is also designing a major expansion for the Atlanta Botanical Garden, said that his work in relaxing outdoors settings is a pleasure for him.

"It’s like getting to build that fort in the woods when I was 8, only now I have more materials and am getting paid for it," Robinson said.

Deloris Smith of Gainesville, a Hall County Master Gardener and volunteer at the new garden was among those invited to a presentation of the plans on Thursday and was impressed by what she saw.

"It’s just magic," Smith said. "It’s wonderful. I’ve been volunteering out here for three years. We’ve seen such tremendous change and beautiful things that are about to happen. It’s like a little bit of heaven on earth."

The approach to the center will include a parking lot with the ability to capture the storm water runoff.

The garden is being built on the 185-acre homestead of Lessie Smithgall and her late husband, Charles, who donated the land and a $3 million endowment to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, which is developing the woodland garden.

Mrs. Smithgall was among the guests at a private event Wednesday night at the garden site and is said to be impressed with the transformation that is taking place. She and her late husband founded The Times.

The architect and designer for the planned Smithgall Woodland Garden unveiled renderings and plans on Thursday for the $10 million first phase of the project, just north of Gainesville.

Herb Schaal of EDAW, a San Francisco-based design firm, said the site is a natural venue for the planned 185-acre project.

"When I came here to look at this site, I was just blown away by its natural beauty," Schaal said. "We don’t often get to work on sites that have so much terrain and natural qualities that are already there."

But Schaal, a noted landscape architect with many projects to his credit, says he will attempt to improve on the palate provided."We’re going to enhance that landscape on the ground plain with colorful flowering plants and with a shrub layer adjacent to that and then with additional understory plants," he said

A capital campaign is under way to raise an additional $5 million for the first phase of the project.

Schaal has drawn preliminary plans for the second and third phase of the project, which will include a waterfall trail, children’s garden, amphitheater, a native plant collection and an Asian valley.



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