"Ray had a stroke of genius," said Matt Cowell, executive director of the Traverse City/Garfield Township Recreational Authority, which oversees the overall 56-acre development.
“He said, ‘Wait a second. If the pillars are the key, let's just knock out the walls. We'll have a ready-made spot for a pavilion," Cowell said.
An added plus: an underground tunnel connects the pavilion to the Visitor Center, and will remain intact
"People love the tunnel and now it won't get buried," Cowell said.
The fundraising effort has raised $1.4 million in pledges, a little shy of a $1.5 million mark targeted for the end of December. If the goal is achieved, planting and the barn re-hab will begin a year from now, Cowell said
The barn will open for concerts and events by the fall of 2014 if all goes well, Cowell said.
The Visitor Center is getting a head start because the $350,000 project is funded, in part, by the Michigan Resources Trust Fund, which requires the work be completed this summer, Cowell said.
The project also includes a picnic area, wildlife viewing platform, and a paved, 10-foot wide, 3,500-foot trail that will meander from Barnes Road to Silver Drive, Cowell said.
“It will go by the barns and past the community gardens and connect up with an existing trail,” Cowell said. “It will be totally cool.”
Renderings of the Botanic Garden shows a garden that ribbons through wetlands, woodlands and uplands.
“I think this will be a real focal point of the whole region,” Schmidt said.
The Botanic Garden is located just west of the Silver Lake Road entrance into the Grand Traverse Commons.
For more information, visit www.NorthwestMichiganGarden.org.