Children’s garden vision grows

The seeds that have been planted to redevelop a large children’s garden in one of Mill Creek MetroParks’ most popular destinations are beginning to bear ripe fruit — one donor at a time.

“The board and members of Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens were captivated by the plans for transforming the northwest corner of Fellows Riverside Gardens into a true destination spot for children and families,” Denise Stewart, Friends’ president, said.

To bring such a goal closer to reality, Stewart’s organization has pledged about $341,000 toward the 1.5-acre project, estimated at $3.4 million. The monetary effort began some years ago with a $200,000 pledge for naming rights for one of the five gardens within the larger project that, with accrued interest, has grown to $241,000 before the organization’s board raised an additional $100,000, she noted.

“I’m very excited to have our organization designated in the naming of one of our gardens. It will be a beauty spot for all to enjoy,” said Stewart, who also teaches a course on human trafficking at Youngstown State University.

The Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens is among the 112 donors who, collectively, have raised slightly more than $1 million for the effort, Chris Litton, the park’s development director, noted.

Fort Collins, Colorado-based Russell + Mills Studios is handling the design and architectural aspects of the expansive and nearly rectangular reshaped children’s garden, which will stretch from near Mahoning and McKinley avenues to the Fellows Riverside Gardens’ parking lot next to the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center. The project also will include security fencing, along with a stone wall with iron gates.

Another prominent donor has been the Youngstown Foundation, which, last year, pledged around $250,000 for the garden’s second phase, Litton said.

Within the larger space, for which work began in early 2022, will be six individual component units: sensory, wonder room, harvest, forest and stream gardens for children and adults to enjoy, each with its unique characteristics, he noted.

Also in the mix will be a hummock lawn in the center of the space that will emulate glacial formations with small glacial hills and cairns.

The six gardens’ specific features will include areas for children to climb and explore, raise plant-based foods, play in a small meandering stream, walk along wooden boardwalks and tree platforms and climb mounds of grass, Litton said.

The redevelopment also will represent a vast improvement to the original garden that was built in the early 1980s as an educational resource for FRG. The current work also entailed removing old tires and other outdated apparatus that had been installed in that area, he added.

“At the end of the day, kids deserve to have something like this,” Litton said.

Also on the acreage is the Margaret Cushwa Outdoor Educational Building, a 680-square-foot classroom that opened in November 2022 and served as the garden project’s first phase. Two of its sides have large sliding-glass doors that open and will face the large garden.

The building was named in honor of the late Cushwa, who died in 1995 and was a former Mill Creek Park commissioner. She and her family also were among the city’s leading industrialists.

Stewart said that she also hopes the large children’s garden will capture the spirit and vision of Elizabeth A. Fellows, an 1878 graduate of The Rayen School who willed the land and funds to Mill Creek MetroParks to build and maintain the free public botanical gardens named after her.

“We envision a beautiful and inspiring children’s garden that adds to the splendor that Elizabeth Fellows envisioned in her will ‘to create a beauty spot to be enjoyed by all,’” Stewart added.

To make a donation, go to or Contributions to the project also can be made to the Mill Creek MetroParks Foundation by calling Litton at 330-718-2699.


Read the original article at the Tribune Chronicle.