by Abigail L. Beggerly
Springfieldians may soon get to take a trip to the past after Founders Park begins its first phase of construction this fall.
Phase I of the three-phase project will encompass one-third the distance west in the park, said Pat Walker, coordinator of the Founders Park project for the Downtown Springfield Association.
Approximately 300 volunteers have donated time, money and resources to prepare the site for phase I construction.
"We had 12 companies and three labor unions helping us move a cement wall and remove rubble from the site, and the city and county let us use their dump trucks on the weekends," Walker said. "We've had a lot of interest and support from within the community."
The phase I construction date has not been officially set, however, it is expected to take place sometime within the next two months.
It's hard to set a date when you depend entirely upon volunteers, Walker said.
Phase I will include installing clusters of cement blocks replicas of marble blocks from the Phenix quarry, which were cut using wire. The clusters will be in various sizes, and bronze plaques will be mounted displaying a time line of the first 100 years of Springfield history from its settlement in 1829.
"We have a very complex and rich history (so) that it's hard to decide what's most important," Walker said.
Several local historians are currently on the open committee choosing what Springfield history is the most important and should therefore be highlighted at the park. Students from Carver, Reed and Pleasant View middle schools are also researching local history topics.
Approximately one-third of the fund raising for the park's three phases is complete, Walker said.
Other aspects of phase I will include planting a native grass garden on the south side of the park, across from the cement block clusters, on Water Street.
Local landscape architects Steve Ownby and Cory Ownby, of Ownby Associates, helped in the design of the native garden for phase I, water garden for phase II and the woodland garden for phase III.
"We've been involved from the beginning," said Steve Ownby. The father-and-son team sat on the committee that received the initial design submittals and were part of the Ozarks section of the American Society of Landscape Architects, which designed the park's final master plan from the submittals.
We were hired to design the landscape and gardens, Hood Rich was hired for the electrical construction planning and the Horace Moore Group was hired for the site construction design, Ownby said.
The native garden will be the home to many species of plants, including tall, medium and short native grasses, and 20 or more annual and biennial wildflowers that were in Springfield when the city was settled in 1829. Some of the plants were donated by area nurseries, bought through donations or grown by area students.
"The planting of the native garden will be in the last part of phase I, when all of the heavy equipment is out of the way," Ownby said.
Visitors will be able to walk through the gardens on designated paths. Markers will help visitors identify the different plants and learn more about the native species.
"It'll have a natural feel, there won't be much color unless a wildflower happens to be in bloom," Ownby said. "It'll be in a more natural setting, not a display garden."
Phase II involves the construction of the water garden, with phase III includes the construction of the woodland garden and an outdoor amphitheater. The park will be opened to the public as each phase is completed, at least for special occasions, Ownby said.
Founders Park is not only intended to be a place to learn local history, but an educational tool for local schools, as well.
Science and math programs are currently being established for the park, to be used by visiting students, Walker said. "We would like to provide a hands-on concept for these students that may help them to understand these subjects better."
Phase I is projected to be complete within 18 months, with the next phase already started before phase I is finished.
"I don't think it will be a clean break from one phase to the next," Walker said. "It will be a kind of fluid effort as we go along."
The park is intended for use by all as an educational activity, for relaxation or to just to have fun, Walker said. Springfield citizens can help in the park's development by donating as much as $1,000, which will ensure their name a spot on the wall of honor within the park.
A dollar donation, or some donated free time, will reserve a place for the donor's or volunteer's name in a commemorative book to be given out at the park's dedication.[[In-content Ad]]
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