Sandusky Gives New Life to Community Greenhouse

The winter weather outside might be frightful, but the blooms of the newly renovated Sandusky Community Greenhouse are absolutely delightful. The community greenhouse and Sandusky/Erie Community Foundation are beneficiaries of one of the $15 million in grants awarded through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Access to Recreation initiative.

In partnership with the City of Sandusky and Erie MetroParks, the Community Foundation proposed a transformation of the city greenhouse into a community gardening center utilizing the principles of universal design. The Kellogg Foundation grant of $267,000 required a local match of $208,000. The redesign included many facets to make the facility more usable and inviting to visitors of all ages, such as the installation of a power-operated exterior door to make the main entrance accessible; converting the pea gravel greenhouse floor to concrete throughout creating accessible routes; carefully selecting locations for the floor drainage system and cross slopes not to interfere with the paths of travel; and, most notably, planting tables on a crank and roller system to provide accessible routes to each table and every row of plants. The project also includes new accessible restrooms, utility sink for garden clean up, drinking fountain, pergola with water feature and outdoor garden areas with raised beds.

At the onset of the project, the planning team asked an architectural firm to develop a master plan for the entire Huron Ave Park space, which includes the greenhouse campus and three adjacent parcels of land. “We knew that we couldn’t afford to do everything at once, but we wanted a plan that we could grow into over time,” says Barbara Hanck, President of the Sandusky/Erie County Community Foundation. In 2009, the City of Sandusky allocated $125,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds to build an accessible Splash Pad. The master plan for the Huron Ave Park calls for a children’s garden, a skateboard park, new basketball court and a picnic area.

When the grant planning committee began meeting to discuss their initial proposal for the Access to Recreation grant, Hanck says, “We were like Goldilocks. Some projects were too big and some too small. There are a number of reasons why we selected the greenhouse renovation. Gardening is the number one leisure time activity in the United States. Gardening provides health and social benefits. Anyone, of any age, ability or socio-economic status can garden – and the wonderful thing about the greenhouse is that gardening here is a year round activity.”

Hanck adds, “This project is unique and unduplicated in Erie County, no other community gardening center exists here. This community loves its old buildings, and nothing makes a Sanduskian happier than retrofitting an old treasure with new purpose and new life. The first Sandusky Greenhouse was built on this property in 1908. As a result of our Access to Recreation project, for the first time in its 100-year history, this facility is fully accessible and open to the public.”