Landscaping Outdoor Spaces – East Bay Public Plaza + HOCM



Submitted by Cathy Johnson of Dandelion Gardens

A stream trickles through the East Bay Public Plaza, in front of the New Hands On Children’s Museum.

The New Hands On Children’s Museum opening is just days away.  After years of dreaming, designing, and fundraising, the new museum facility is ready to educate and entertain.

A key component of the new museum is its outdoor space, part of which is already built and being enjoyed.  You can read more about the creation of the East Bay Public Plaza, located in front of the New Museum, in this previous ThurstonTalk article.

Throughout the plaza, there are comfortable benches to watch children play and explore, read a book, and simply sit and relax.  The park’s landscape is composed primarily of native Northwest plants – vine maple, salal, sword fern, wild strawberry, snowberry, and Oregon grape.  A few non-native plants such as ornamental grasses and daylilies are also included in the landscape.   Both native and non-native plants provide seasonal interest and texture variety, are drought tolerant, and perform well in our climate.

Signs throughout the planting beds provide educational information about the plants and landscape.  A beautifully designed “art fence” will be erected within a few months to enclose the museum’s outdoor activity center and separate it from the public plaza.

The museum’s half-acre outdoor activity center will likely open by summer 2013.  The activity center will have an educational rain garden and wetlands, sand and gravel dig, kiddie car wash, firepit story telling area, trike and hike loop, and lighthouse lookout.  Children will even be able to build a fort out of driftwood and explore a tugboat.  Another integral part of the center area will be the naturalist cabin with a leaf rubbing and plant identification area.

No children’s garden would be complete without an edible garden, and children will be able to plant, weed, and watch the vegetables and fruit grow – and best yet, enjoy the harvest.

The landscaping at the East Bay Public Plaza includes many native plants.

A primary purpose of the outdoor activity center is to educate children about the world around them, especially the Pacific Northwest.  Children will learn about a Squaxin Tribe canoe and summer camp dwelling area, observe butterflies and birds in a meadow, study native plants, discover the benefits of composting and worms, and gain a better appreciation and understanding of our food production.

Jody Suhrbier, the Museum’s Development Manager, gave me a tour of the new museum facility and East Bay Public Plaza.  Jody seemed just as excited as I was about the new facility and outdoor space.   Her favorite part of the landscape so far is the stream, because there’s just something special about watching children and families play in it.

Jody complimented the work of local companies integral to the planning and construction of the New Museum.  You can read here about the local tradespeople that have worked on the New Museum.  Bob Droll Landscape Architecture firm was a major part of the landscape design process with Puget Sound Landscaping also contributing.

My son, who is now 12, and I spent many hours at the Museum when it was located by the Capitol campus – this new facility just blows the old one away!  The museum will draw families from the surrounding area to Olympia, where they will explore and enjoy our city and contribute to our economy.

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