Vision for Mead Garden Nature Center
Conceived in 1938, Mead Garden now needs revitalization, relevance to today and the future, and a clear identity.
We are now at the tipping point to realize the natural potential of Mead Garden - for ourselves and for tomorrow's generations. To date, the Friends of Mead Garden has stewarded donations from individuals, foundations, and corporations, and with matching funds from the Central Florida Community Foundation, is preparing a capital campaign to breathe life into these well-laid plans.
A Little History
Renowned horticulturist Theodore L. Mead never saw Mead Garden, never knew it was obtained thru generous donations of land, or even that it was named for him. Yet, Mead's indomitable spirit still permeates this beautiful place.
Mead's protégé John Connery and Rollins College Vice President Edwin Grover proposed to establish a botanical garden to house Mead's rare orchid collections and thousands of varieties of caladiums, ferns, bromeliads, and more. The Garden, completed thru donations of $62,170 and labor from the WPA, was dedicated and opened on January 14, 1940. In 1953, the City of Winter Park assumed responsibility for its management, and the Garden evolved from its founding as a showcase for Mead's collections into a public park.
In the 70’s Orange County Public Schools funded an environmental education program for children to experience and study the garden’s rare variety of habitat wetland, upland, pine forest and water bodies. Over 5000 students a year experienced a day in nature until 2009 when the public school district cut funding due to the budget crisis.
Over the years, required maintenance and improvements of the Garden diminished leading to deterioration. Community volunteers reached out, but the demands were too great without a well-coordinated public-private partnership. To add insult to injury, in 2004 three devastating hurricanes hit the garden hard, with the loss of more than one-third of its tree canopy and shrubbery.
The City and FMG have come together to restore the Garden and the response has been rewarding:
- In 2003, FMG developed a strategic plan that led to the City contracting for a master plan for Mead Garden.
- The City has funded a necessary spraying program for invasive vines.
- Plant collections nearly lost to invasive vines have been saved through weekly tending by loving hands of our volunteers.
- And most importantly, the City will move the maintenance facility out of the Garden by the fall of 2010, leaving a wonderful spot for an Environmental Education Campus... a Nature Center.
Nature education in Mead Garden is a successful concept. Based on the well-loved public school program, FMG sponsored the Summer Nature Camp, now a must-do camp that serves 150 children each summer. The unique ecology of Mead Garden makes this a rich opportunity for learning.
In 2008 and again in 2009, FMG and the City held Summits to reaffirm the priorities to focus and revitalize the garden. Foundations and donors have embraced the plan, giving us a strong financial basis to pursue the vision for the Nature Center and ecorestoration in Mead Garden.
Today, Mead Garden is on the threshold of a full-scale restoration. Most of the community now understands the fragile health of Winter Park’s second largest park. FMG has sown the seeds needed to turn this unique urban landscape back into a healthy habitat for wildlife, a laboratory for learning, and a healthy example of Florida-friendly flora for all to enjoy.
Maintenance "Campus" Today
Re-purpose the existing maintenance buildings and site into the Mead Garden (Nature Center) Environmental Learning Center.
- The site plan and architectural design for the Environmental Learning Center are ready to be implemented in 2010 as a model of ‘green design’ that will project the values of environmental responsibility while enhancing the garden assets of Mead Garden.
- The Mead Garden main activity center area is planned for ‘placed-based education’ and enjoyment with garden features for direct experience of butterfly gardens, a children’s activity garden, and native plant discovery gardens, wetland and stream observation.
- Exciting educational programming is ready to roll out for youth to get them away from televisions and video screens, for area adult residents, and visitors seeking to learn more about the value of the natural environment and its role in our lives.
Vision of Nature Center
Estimated Capital Budget
The project budget was developed with input from VHB, Fugleberg and Koch, and Winter Park Construction. The budget includes a 30% contingency to accommodate design refinements.
Ecorestoration and Revitalization
With the gracious support of the community, and these important steps:
- The Mead Teaching Community Garden is underway as a center for teaching how to establish community gardens.
- Storm water projects vital to the regional watershed are under way through public grants. One is complete and another begins in 2010.
- A garden-wide Friends of Mead Garden Restoration and Replanting plan is in place to plant, irrigate and sustain 3000+ new trees. A GPS based tree survey has been completed by a Certified Wildlife Biologist.
- And, more volunteer groups are ready to dig-in to Mead Garden – Rotary Clubs, Garden Clubs, Scouts, college students, master gardeners, teachers and residents ready to plant, clean, build and teach.