Kids will take the library outside

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Photo by Meg Hibbert
Salem Library Director Ann Tripp, right, and Senior Library Assistant Theresa Baga dig up a Bleeding Heart plant to make way for tilling and planting beds in the Salem Public Library’s Children’s Garden, sponsored by the Salem Host Lions Club and the Friends of Salem Library.

Walking around while reading a book, making mud pies, picking wildflowers and playing with wooden blocks – these will soon all be outdoor activities children can do at the Salem Public Library.

The library’s Children’s Garden is being developed on the Main Street side in a 45-by-60-foot space in front of the building in downtown Salem. Soil amendments and a sprinkler system are being added this week. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for 5 p.m. June 28 and will be followed by a free concert at 5:30 p.m. by nationally known musician Charlie Hope.

By then there should be stepping stones inviting young visitors to take a StoryWalk, raised garden beds, a floating wooden deck that could be a stage for youngsters, the beginnings of a pick-your-own wildflower garden, benches and more.

There will even be a “Dr. Seuss” tree, explained Senior Library Assistant Theresa Baga. “It’s a Button Bush, but I think the flowers look like something out of Dr. Seuss books. It’s a very cute plant.”

Trees Baga has selected for the Children’s Garden will stay small and be manageable while providing some shade. “We will have a Fringe Tree, a Double-bloom Crabapple and Serviceberry,” she said, “and clumping perennials that you only have to deadhead one or two times a year.”

“Theresa has done a great job of selecting plants that are low maintenance,” Tripp added.

Some of the seeds that will be planted are coming from the library’s Seed Library.

When roofers needed a staging area to place materials while preparing and putting on the library’s new roof earlier this year, the brick wall and library’s patio had to be removed. That was actually a blessing in getting the dream going, said an excited Salem Library Director Ann Tripp. This week she and Baga talked about the Children’s Garden Plans as they carefully relocated a blooming Bleeding Heart plant and cleared weeds in preparation for tilling the soil and other improvements.

Graphic courtesy Salem Public Library
This graphic shows features of the Salem Public Library’s Children’s Garden that is being developed in front of the library, with a StoryWalk to read books while walking around the area, raised garden beds where children can plant and harvest crops and flowers, and other fun activities.

Friends of the Salem Library (FOSL) paid for materials for much of the garden, such as the StoryWalk displays and raised garden bed materials. Boy Scout Ben Kessel sliced tree stumps for kids’ seats, built StoryWalk stands and designed and built other woodwork. He also built the frames for the three raised beds.

The Salem Host Lions Club donated money for the wrought iron fence that will mark the garden boundaries. Even though there will be decorative gates, one will stay open, Tripp pointed out, so and strand lighting to highlight the area so visitors can enjoy the garden anytime.

She described the StoryWalk as “a fun, educational activity that places the pages from a children’s story along a walking route, with a different story selected seasonally by our Children’s Librarian Emily Metrock.”

Tripp is inviting individuals to volunteer to help plant and work the Children’s Garden. Other sponsors and supporters besides those named above include Horst Oedel at Salem Auto Glass who provided Lexan and cutting for StoryWalk boards, with site preparation, StoryWalk installation, plantings, manpower and support by the City of Salem Beautification and City of Salem Street Department.

As for other fun activities and spaces which children, parents and grandparents can look forward to, “There will be handmade natural wood toys people can check out,” Tripp said, “and some natural play features.”

Those could be an area to make mud pies – a place where kids can get dirty – a place for a water painting chalkboard, maybe tricks to make a teepee. “It will be adorable,” Tripp promised.

Pick-Your-Own-Wildflowers is sponsored by Flower Power, an area organization which Coordinator Georgianne Vecellio said “plants flowers in public places we want people to enjoy.”