By Susan Weber, APLD, LEED Green Associate
In the fall of 2013, Integrity Sustainable Planning and Design partnered with the City of Worthington in developing the idea of creating a natural, educational sensory garden space at their Northwest Library branch. The Northwest Library is one of three sites for the Worthington Library, which is the ninth-busiest library system in Ohio. Over 25,000 children and families attend youth programs at the Northwest Library location, including storytimes and special programs such as science and art. The area surrounding the library offers neighbors few choices for outdoor learning.
Worthington Library’s Green Team facilitated several community engagement sessions to `dream’ the space; participants envisioned a space where adults and children of all ages could experience a variety of imaginative sensory experiences in an accessible, natural outdoor setting. Integrity Sustainable Planning and Design developed a comprehensive land plan based on the criteria developed by the community. Oakland Nursery installed the hardscaping in late 2014, and helped library staff and Integrity facilitate a volunteer planting day.
The sensory garden space includes a diversity of native plants, sculpture, safe ‘pondless’ water features, gravel pathways, a dry creekbed with native pebbles and boulders, and a a bird habitat area. Several of the native plant beds lining the edge of the handicapped parking area absorb stormwater runoff from the parking lot pavement. Plans are underway to add natural log seats and benches and storage for ‘loose parts’ for creative play. New signage includes beautiful images and poetry from nature.