Children’s Learning Garden could be ready this spring at Bosler Memorial Library

Jeffrey Swope sees potential in the rickety old porch and overgrown patch of ground on the Bosler Memorial Library campus in downtown Carlisle.

“We’re trying to infuse this space with all different kinds of learning,” the library executive director said of plans to develop a Children’s Learning Garden on what is now an under-utilized lot between the main library building and 29 S. West St. “This will repurpose the space in a way that will serve the community.”

This effort gathered momentum after the COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the need for libraries to have outdoor programming space to provide flexibility and allow for social distancing.

“We started a design process,” Swope said. “We started putting together information to put out to our family of donors. Things were looking good.”

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But supply chain issues and inflation drove up the project costs beyond the initial estimate. “It was getting to the point where we were on the cusp of being priced out,” Swope said. “The grant came at the perfect time.”

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In late December, Cumberland County Commissioners Jean Foschi and Vince DiFilippo voted to award Bosler Library a $150,000 grant drawn from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. Commissioner Gary Eichelberger voted against this grant, citing objections to the way the application review process was handled.

The county has been making grants available to support physical health and mental health initiatives, infrastructure projects and business/nonprofit COVID-19 recovery efforts.

The space set aside for the Learning Garden consists of a walkway connecting the library parking lot to the sidewalk on the first block of South West Street. This walkway is flanked on one side by a patch of vegetation and on the other side by a worn-out porch attached to the library building.

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The plan is to apply the $150,000 grant toward a $630,000 project that would replace the vegetation with paved program space and rebuild and enclose the porch into space that could be used year-round and in all types of weather.

A brick wall will be constructed along most of the gap between the two buildings except for a recessed entry that will consist of a round wooden door modeled after what appears in the book “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. The pavers used within the program space will be designed to look like the beginnings of the yellow brick road from the “The Wizard of Oz” movie.

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  • Space on the library building walls and on one side of a storage shed for artwork by children
  • Display cases where kids can show off their projects
  • Amphitheater-like seating in front of the porch for outdoor story time and other programs
  • All-weather musical instruments for the youngsters to play

“We’re trying to infuse the space with a sense of joy and whimsy that fits with the outdoors, but isn’t overly cute,” Swope said. “Outdoor space is another way to engage children in the world around them.”

Being outside, the Learning Garden would be the ideal space to teach children lessons on ecology, agriculture, green energy and sustainability. In theory, there could be a program where kids could even set up telescopes to study astronomy.

Though named a “Garden,” it will not be a place for children to sow plants, Swope said. But there could be accommodations for them to tend plants in containers.

Bosler Library is working out the details of a final contract with R.S. Mowery and Sons, the company selected to do the work. The estimated completion of the project is late April-early May, Swope said.

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