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Sunken Garden to reopen in June

Preservation paramount in relocation

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Years of meticulous planning and careful attention to detail are coming to a head as Lansing Board of Water & Light officials prepare to reopen the relocated Scott Sunken Garden to the public.

“It’s exactly the same. We put it together brick-by-brick, stone-by-stone and kept the original plants. I’d say 99% have been kept alive to be replanted in the new gardens,” said Breina Pugh, a BWL spokeswoman. “Anything that has been in the old gardens is making its way into the new gardens. We’re on track to finish by mid-June.”

Three years ago, BWL officials encountered protests when they proposed moving the Sunken Garden west to make room for the Central Substation project at Washington Avenue and Malcolm X Street on the edge of REO Town. That project was nearing completion this week as gardeners tilled the soil, put the finishing touches on the original stonework and poured concrete for sidewalks near the site.

Officials expect the substation to be finished by fall and the Scott Sunken Garden to open next month.

“We’re really looking forward to having this site back open,” said Lansing Parks Director Brett Kaschinske. “It has been a long time coming, and it really helps connect the Sunken Garden with the Cooley Gardens and the Cooley-Haze House. It’s a beautiful entrance way into REO Town. That block is really coming together.”

The BWL Board of Commissioners created a $40,000 endowment to fund routine garden maintenance at the site. While the new garden is using some newly purchased materials, BWL officials said preservation of the old site was paramount.

Plants removed from the original gardens were kept in flower beds adjacent to the nearby Cooley-Haze House, Kaschinske said. BWL officials said nearly every plant in the original gardens has already been moved, into the reconstructed garden space, with the rest to follow.

The stonework surrounding the site was also “meticulously disassembled, numbered and catalogued, then reassembled brick-by-brick and stone-by-stone to the new location in the same order,” Pugh said. Some new stones made of the same material were also used to replace damaged components, she said.

Art Hasbrook, a spokesman for the Scott Sunken Garden Friends, said the project took longer than expected but the delay was necessary in order to ensure the gardens were accurately reassembled. Even the small spaces carved into the stonework to house more plants were recreated exactly as they existed in the old gardens.

“There needed to be some extra work to preserve that historical integrity,” Hasbrook added. “I really think BWL turned things around on this project after they got a better understanding. Some of the historical validity itself might have been lost in the move, but this will again be a beautiful little garden for the city and its residents.”

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