New season brings growth to Yampa River Botanic Park
Friday marks the beginning of National Public Gardens Week, a week that brings awareness to the important role that public gardens play in communities across the country.
In Steamboat Springs, Yampa River Botanic Park Executive Director Jennifer MacNeil acknowledged the role the park played for the community during the pandemic.
“Part of our mission is to create a place of serenity, and I think we were able to do that during the pandemic and provide a peaceful place for our community,” she said.
That peaceful atmosphere is getting an upgrade this summer with several renovation projects taking place over the next few months, MacNeil said.
The butterfly and hummingbird gardens — to the right of the main entrance — are two of the original gardens in the park.
“They’re receiving a major overhaul this summer,” MacNeil said. “They’re both over 20 years old at this point.”
Current plants will be taken out to save — they will either be potted and put on display or planted in different gardens — and after a full soil renovation and a new garden design takes shape, the gardens will be replanted with similar pollinator plants that attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.
Dorothy’s Garden, which showcases plants native to Colorado, is now in its second year of a three-year renovation project. This year, more rock outcropping will occur and additional native plants will be added to increase the number of species represented.
The existing Fairy Garden will be moved to the Children’s Garden, and a new Fairy Garden Village is currently being created. The grand opening of this garden is scheduled for June 11 in conjunction with the annual fairy garden house contest; the submissions will be on display in the new Fairy Garden Village.
In addition to individual gardens, the gates at both the main entrance and the Yampa River Core Trail entrance will be replaced. The current chain link gates are narrow and have an automatic closer; new gates will be ADA accessible and will be easier for strollers and bikes to pass through.
“The goal for this project is to make the gates more functional and more artistic,” MacNeil explained. “At the end of the project, the gates will really be a piece of art. We want to welcome the community in and make people want to come into the park.”
Later in the year, improvements will be made to the pathway that circles Peter’s Pond. Overgrown roots from the surrounding cottonwood trees have uprooted the flagstone on the current path, posing tripping hazards. In the fall, the existing walkway will be ripped out and replaced to make the path safer and more accessible.
Upgrades to the park will take place throughout the whole summer — a season that MacNeil anticipates to be a very busy one at the park.
Regular programming returns to the park this summer after several events being canceled last summer.
Stories in the Garden, a collaboration with Bud Werner Memorial Library in which children birth to age 7 listen to stories in the Children’s Garden, will return this summer with added dates.
Music on the Green, a collaboration with Strings Music Festival, returns with a full schedule of eight performances after being cut short last year.
Yoga on the Green begins at the end of May, and Lulie’s Wildflowers and Watercolors will take place three times this summer.
Piknik Theatre is returning after being canceled last summer, and the popular event, An Evening with the Master Gardeners, which is typically held at the library, will take place in person at the park this May.
In a new partnership, Opera Steamboat presents Frida Kahlo’s Garden, an art exhibition hosted at Steamboat Creates and a plant exhibition hosted by Yampa River Botanic Park.
“It’s a big deal for our community that we’re getting this traveling exhibit,” MacNeil said.
In other firsts, the park will host its first gala event this June, a fundraiser called Passport Through the Botanic Park.
“We wanted to do a fundraising event this year, but we knew that we needed to create a concept that would still allow for social distancing,” MacNeil explained.
• An Evening with the Master Gardeners: 5 p.m. May 25
• Yoga on the Green: 9 to 10 a.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, beginning May 29
• Stories in the Garden: 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. every Friday, beginning June 4
• Lulie’s Wildflowers and Watercolors: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. June 15, July 19 and Aug. 3
• Passport Through the Botanic Park fundraiser: 5 p.m. June 19
• Music on the Green: 10 to 11 a.m. every Wednesday, beginning June 30
• Piknik Theatre: 6 to 7 p.m. July 25 to Aug. 5
Guests will journey through the park, stopping along the way at different gardens to learn about the plants in that garden and sample a food and wine pairing.
“We want to invite people to really spread out over the 6 acres that we have here at the park,” MacNeil said, “and we want to encourage them to go down all the little pathways and loops that they might not typically explore.”
But now, in these early days of spring, visitors can expect to see vibrant displays of daffodils and tulips. MacNeil said the glacier lilies are flowering this week, and the ospreys have returned to their nest across the Core Trail.
“There’s really something new every day,” she said. “The park doesn’t look the same day to day. There are so many different species of plants that come on throughout the year. It’s always a surprise.”
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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