Garden to open in honor of former Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 11:17 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The Darwin Hindman Discovery Garden will be located in the northeast quadrant of Stephens Lake Park along the outer path. The garden, which is expected to be completed in spring 2011, will include three themed exhibits centered around biodiversity.

COLUMBIA – There are a number of ways that people could honor the former mayor who is known for his efforts to bring beauty and charm to the city of Columbia. 

So when a group of people interested in commemorating the service of former Mayor Darwin Hindman sat down to discuss their ideas, they had plenty of them. One of the candidates was a bronze sculpture of Hindman and his wife, Axie Hindman, riding their tandem bicycle. Another was a mural depicting Hindman’s life in Columbia, which spans more than seven decades, and telling the story of his public service.

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If you would like to make a contribution to the Darwin Hindman Discovery Garden, contact Chip Cooper at 445-6180.

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But the idea of creating the Darwin Hindman Discovery Garden beat out all its rivals. The garden could be open by the end of next spring.

The garden will be in Stephens Lake Park, which Hindman, the City Council and Columbia voters all helped establish in 2005, and is intended to be both attractive and educational. It will include three theme gardens that will exhibit the history of how plants from around the world made their way to Missouri, how local flora has changed over the years and how people historically have used hybridization to improve plants.

"The Discovery Garden is a public garden designed to inform and inspire visitors about the marvel of horticulture by demonstrating how the botanical world connects and resonates in both our lives and community, " said Brett O'Brien, natural resource supervisor for the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department.

One of the theme gardens, “Grow to Know Your World,” will feature ornamental plants from around the world.

O’Brien said that garden’s purpose will be to help people understand the origins and incredible history of how people brought plants from their native lands and integrated them into Missouri gardening practices. The garden will include plant collections from China, Africa, South America and elsewhere, O'Brien said.

The second theme garden will be called “What Did Daniels See?” It will feature plants from Francis Potter Daniels’ inventory of native plant communities in Boone County.

Daniels was an MU botany professor around 1907. Connecting the present and the past, his work described in detail the existing ecosystems and natural areas in pre-1900 Boone County and helps today's botanists document human activity's impact on the local landscape, O’Brien said.

The third theme garden will be called “An Eye for Improvement” and is intended to demonstrate the value and purpose of plant selection and hybridization, according to a brochure about the plan.

It will focus on how hybridization has contributed to the cultivation of plants such as strawberries, lilies and peppermint. Antoine Nicolas Duchesne, a French botanist who lived in the 18th century and who at the age of 17 succeeded in hybridizing strawberries, is one of the inspirations for the theme garden.

O’Brien said the Hindman garden also will include a stone council ring, inspired by Native Americans, where people can gather.

All the gardens and ring will be connected by a crushed granite trail.

The speed of fundraising to a large extent will determine the progress of the project. If everything goes smoothly, O'Brien said, the garden will be open by late next spring.

The garden will cost about $60,000, all of which will come from private funds. Fundraising started three weeks ago. The New Century Fund, which was established and managed by the city to promote arts and recreation, is raising money for the garden.

Chip Cooper, a member of the PedNet Coalition Board of Directors, helped initiate the plan. He said that as of April 19, $15,000 had been donated and about $5,000 more promised.

Ray Beck, former city manager, and Hank Waters, publisher of the Columbia Daily Tribune, are co-chairing a subcommittee to help raise money.

Cooper said he cannot say for sure, but he feels confident that work will start this summer.

Most of the donations are from people who want to recognize Hindman's service as mayor, said Vicki Russell, associate publisher of the Tribune. She's helping raise money for the garden.

Hindman was mayor for 11 years while Beck was city manager. Both had a hand in starting the New Century Fund.

“He was an excellent mayor for the city, and he's been a major player in the city being an outstanding place to live,” Beck said, citing Hindman’s commitment to parks, gardens and trails.

Beck said it's appropriate to build a garden in a park Hindman helped establish.

About 10 people came up with the concept of honoring him with this gift starting from the fall of 2009. People who worked closely with Hindman, such as Cooper and former City Council members Chris Janku and Karl Kruse, were among the earliest to be involved.

“We met, talked in e-mail and just started coming up with ideas,” Cooper said.

Mike Snyder, who designs gardens for the Parks and Recreation Department, suggested the Discovery Garden. The garden is in the master plan for Stephens Lake Park. Among all the proposals, the garden one became the group's favorite.

Cooper said the group shared the idea with Hindman's family, and they liked it, too.

Cooper worked with Hindman to help establish the MKT Nature/Fitness Trail.

“I think he is a remarkable human being and one of the people that I most admire," Cooper said. "His love of Columbia and faith in its citizens is inspirational."

Hindman heard of the Discovery Garden plan at the swearing-in of new council members April 12.

“I am really excited, very honored and really surprised,” Hindman said. “I like the whole thing. I will certainly go there and will be very proud of it. I will certainly enjoy it personally, and I hope and expect many Columbians will do the same."

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