TAVARES — Lake County Commissioners Jimmy Conner and Jennifer Hill cut the ribbon Wednesday for the grand opening of the Horticultural Learning Center, which is expected to enhance the experience for visitors to Discovery Gardens.
Cutting the ribbon for the new Horticultural Learning Center were (left to right) Lake County Commissioner Jimmy Conner, Susan Guch, Christina Wilkins, President of the Master Gardener Society of Lake County, Lake County Commissioner Jennifer Hill and Interim County Manager Sandy Minkoff.
“I’m really happy,” said Susan Guch, who along with other members of the Friends of the Horticultural Learning Center, helped raise about $125,000 in private donations for the project. “The gardens really needed this. It was a real cooperative effort between the community and Lake County.”
As President of the Friends of the Horticultural Learning Center, Guch started about six years ago soliciting donations for a facility that would help accommodate the public that were visiting Discovery Gardens, which is located on about 3.5 acres behind the Lake County Agricultural Center, 1951 Woodlea Road, Tavares.
The botanical gardens are a virtual outdoor learning center for young students and aspiring gardeners providing hands-on learning experiences. Started in 1995, the gardens are a joint effort of the Lake County Board of Commissioners, University of Florida County Extension Services, Friends of the Horticultural Learning Center and the Master Gardener Society of Lake County.
Unfortunately, the lack of restrooms and shelter to escape inclement weather often made it difficult to host school field trips or public education classes in the gardens. The new 2,300-square-foot educational building, which cost about $252,000, houses public restrooms for men and women, a classroom and a staff break area.
“This is a perfect example of not a public-private partnership, but a private-public partnership,” said Lake County Commissioner Jimmy Conner. “The key words in this program are this project was completed on time and 22 percent under budget.”
Donors to the project include:
Air Tran Airways, American Legion Aux. Unit 76, Ed & Patricia Arman, Azalea Garden Club of Tavares, Julia Gregg Batliner, David & Julie Benthal, Mr. & Mrs. Jim Bottcher, Deborah Boulware, Rev. Hollis H. Buchanan, Ms. Patricia Burgos, Kenneth & Shirley Byrd, Mrs. Doric Cain, Camellia Garden Club, Ruth Carrozza, Charles & Judy Costar, Evelyn Jean Daubenmire, Mildred M. Dunk, Cindy Ferrara, First National Bank Trust & Investments Services of Mount Dora, Helen Flanagan, Connie S. Foley, Nadine Foley, Joanna & Mark Fox, Cathy Frey, Anne & Ray Goldwire, Harriet W. Gorman, Virginia Gougeon, Steve & Susan Guch, Michael & Jeannette Hanst, Harbor Hills Country Club, Ixora Circle Lakes & Hills Garden Club, Mr. & Mrs. Harlow Middleton, Mr. & Mrs. D. Robert Hart, Ms. Dimple Hawthorne, John & Cynthia Heiligenthal, Dr. Richard Henley, Mr. Michael Howell, Ms. Sandra Hults, Insurance General Contractors Inc., Eldon & Violet Irminger, Jane P. Jung, Connie Kolisnyk, Lake County Council of Garden Clubs, Lake County Master Gardener Society, Lakes & Hills Garden Club, Billie & Dixie Long, Carmina Lopez, Donald & Joan MacKenzie, Stephen MacArthur, Magnolia Circle Garden Club, Mount Dora Community Trust, Oleander Circle Lakes & Hills Garden Club, Palm Garden Club of Tavares, Publix, Jon & Rita Rackley, Lance & Sallie Raybould, Shirley Ritchie, Bruce Robinson, Stella Rogers, David Rosenberger, Royal Highlands Garden Club, Royal Highland Prop. Owners Assoc. Inc., Regina Rudewicz, Cynthia Schumacher, Diane Setler, Frances Shanaver, Nina Joyce Shuman, G. M & Marilyn Smith, William & Jody Straher, Ms. Casey Swann, Target, C. Chris Tedesco, William & Sandra Tyner, Umatilla Garden Club and Patricia Wellman.
The Horticultural Learning Center is an educational resource supporting the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) programs in horticulture, gardening, landscape design and natural resource management. The Horticultural Learning Center is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday. For more information, call the Lake County Extension at (352) 343-4101.