LARGO — The roots for a new children's garden at Florida Botanical Gardens have been planted, and soon it will begin to bloom.
Following a delay of more than a year due to the pandemic, construction is expected to begin on July 5 on the Majeed Discovery Garden, which will allow kids to experience nature and teach them to be good stewards of the environment.
"We're so excited to finally see that light at the end of the tunnel," said Florida Botanical Gardens communications coordinator Emily Bloxam.
The new garden will be situated in a natural pine flat pine woods habitat with slash pine and laurel oaks, on 2 acres of land along McKay Creek and will be adjacent to an acre of wetland and native plants, surrounded by palmettos.
The space will be divided into an east and west section, divided by concrete pavers, with the east side home to the majority of green space.
“It’s going to be more than just another park,” Bloxam said. “It’s going to be more of an education space.”
Increased costs due to the pandemic and inflation have led to a reworking of some areas, primarily hardscape and playground equipment, Bloxam said.
The garden will include a 600-square-foot outdoor classroom, raised beds and a potting area, a pollinator landing and large honeycomb structure. New to plans are a sensory garden, which offers children an immersive experience where can use all five senses to enjoy the outdoors, as well as braille raised lettering, which will be constructed at waist height.
Other program elements include Florida-friendly exhibits, percussion musical instruments, art display areas, a small honeycomb0themed outdoor stage, play equipment, exploratory trails and an old-fashioned hand water pump.
According to Bloxam, this garden will provide a space where children can learn and grow, right along with the garden itself.
“It’s a place for kids to get their hands a little dirty and learn about nature and become stewards of this garden for years to come,” she said.
In a day and time where screens are readily available for children, Bloxam said the Foundation is dedicated to fostering the joy of outdoor play.
"We really wanted to make sure there were things that really made families and children want to come out for the day and have unstructured play ... and getting down and getting dirty," she said.
There will also be picnic tables, 600 feet of ADA-compliant walkways, water fountains and cellphone charging stations.
"We want to do is make sure this is accessible for all ages and abilities," Bloxam said.
Total estimated construction costs, including design and permits, is $2.6 million. The Majeed Foundation has contributed $1 million.
The Majeed Foundation has contributed $1 million, and The Florida Botanical Garden Foundation has provided $500,000 for the initial costs. An additional $700,000 has been raised from additional donors.
The fruit of the foundation's labors will be celebrated Saturday, June 11, with a groundbreaking ceremony. A reception in the garden's visitor center, 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo, will kick off the morning's events at 9 a.m., followed by the groundbreaking at 10 a.m.