By Ron Leir
For years, the “yard” adjoining the Main Branch of the Kearny Public Library has been a forgotten eyesore.
But now, thanks to an initiative of the Library Board and director Josh Humphrey – with a helping hand from the Hudson County government – that’s about to change.
Taking shape, on the site of seemingly random piles of dirt and a mound of crushed stone, the Kearny Public Library Children’s Garden is taking shape along a plot of ground stretching about 190 feet deep.
The library is using a total of $150,000 in grant aid from the county Open Space Preservation Trust Fund, supplemented by money from its capital budget reserve account, to develop what Humphrey envisions as an essential extension of the library’s mission to serve as a true community resource.
Although much of the outdoor space will be devoted to activities such as arts and crafts and shows for kids – relieving the pressure of dealing with a small basement room – Humphrey said that there’ll also be opportunities for adults to hold exercise classes and yoga, for example.
And there are plans to create a patio with a raised platform, as what Humphrey sees as the perfect setting for open air concerts.
Screening films under the stars is another possibility being investigated, he said.
“The idea was to have something there that’s useful and nice,” Humphrey said.
So, following a design by Kearny resident Jim Lau, a landscape architect for the New York State Department of Transportation, a Wayne contractor, Lou’s Landscaping & Design, has been retained to translate the concept into reality at a cost of $245,000.
Landscaping figures prominently into the concept: There’ll be 27 different species of plants – Scarlet Clematis, Manchurian Lilac, Dwarf Crested Iris are a few samples – around the edges of the enclosed space, including flower gardens and two new trees. “We’ll also have a trellis over the back of the patio,” Humphrey said.
Given the expected proliferation of flora, it could easily lend itself to such programs as “children’s flower garden story time” and “gardening and environmental demonstrations” for all ages, Humphrey suggested.
An irrigation system will be installed, along with eight wooden benches and ample lighting.
Visitors to the garden will enter via a ramp off Kearny Ave. into an area dominated by a lawn and flower garden and can make their way to the patio section toward the rear. Bluestone steps and pavers will be placed at intervals through the space.
There will other infrastructure improvements: New fourfoot- high gates will extend around the entire library building, replacing sidewalk and property wrought-iron gates that, according to Humphrey, have fallen into disrepair.
Additionally, for the benefit and protection of two adjoining multifamily dwellings at 302 Kearny Ave. and 275 Chestnut St., the contractor is building a new retaining wall as a buffer between the garden and the two properties, at no cost to the private owners, Humphrey said. “The garden will probably stay open during the regular library hours,” Humphrey said.
“But it will be locked at night.”
It is hoped that the garden can be ready for a fall opening when the weather is still suitable for outdoor functions, Humphrey said.
Humphrey offered this quote from the Roman statesman Cicero as reflective of the spirit of the project: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”