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Tanks intended for Smithgall garden

POSTED: December 27, 2013 11:28 p.m.

I have noticed two large tanks at the entrance to the Atlanta Botanical Garden site on Cleveland Highway. Pretty sure they are not building a gas station there, so what are they doing?

That is the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Smithgall Woodland Garden, which is still under construction. The tanks are going to be buried underneath the parking lot and will be used to store water from a well for irrigation purposes, according to the garden’s vice president of horticulture, Mildred Fockele.

The 168-acre site has been under construction since April and is currently undergoing the first phase of development. It will feature a visitors center, 2,000-seat amphitheater and about 5 acres of display gardens.

The exterior walls and roof of the visitor center have been built and construction of the interior is currently underway, and workers have begun building the walls of the amphitheater. In early January, development of the pond behind the visitor center will begin along with some planting, Fockele said.

A native plant conservation nursery also has been established at the location.

Despite minor setbacks due to heavy rains over the summer, the site is expected to open sometime between mid-September and mid-October. An official opening date will likely be set near the end of February.

“Construction is going well,” Fockele said. “There is always something unexpected that happens during construction, but we have been lucky so far.

“2014 will be an exciting year for Atlanta Botanical Garden.”

Gainesville resident Lessie Smithgall and her late husband, Charles Smithgall, founders of The Times, donated the property in 2002. The first phase of development cost about $21 million.

Future plans call for an interactive children’s garden and student education programs.

“Once the garden is up and running, we want to establish some student training programs and internship programs with some of the colleges and universities that are in close proximity.”

Atlanta Botanical Garden has already worked with students from Gainesville State College, before it became the University of North Georgia, who helped create a database of plants at the site.

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