Left, Amanda McCutcheon talks to Rebecca Hollander and the First Bloomers about the garden design; right, Sadie Murphy and Jessica Whitehead talk about the master plan for the garden which will be installed next spring. GD

Grant funds new native plants garden; kids help design it

Story and Photos by Gayle Deaton

Next summer, a new Victorian garden filled with Alaska’s native plants will greet visitors at the National Park Service lot on 4th and Broadway in downtown Skagway.
The new garden is being funded thanks to a First Bloom grant awarded to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park and its partner the Skagway Recreation Center through the National Parks Foundation.
Children participating in the SRC afterschool program are currently working on a design for the garden using historic Victorian landscaping features that meet Skagway Historic District regulations. Some of the preliminary features include a birdbath, benches, bike rack; tool shed and raised flowerbeds that are partially enclosed by a fence.
As many as 10 students are participating in the garden design according to Park Education Specialist, Amanda McCutcheon who is in charge of the project.
“Each of the kids made their own garden design,” McCutcheon said. “Then we voted on them. Most of them have at least one or two things they contributed to it.”
The students took a tour of Karl Klupar’s Victorian garden at the historic Skagway Inn for inspiration.
“What’s been neat is to see the kids not really taking a lot of interest in it at first, and then seeing them interested in taking ownership of the project after taking the tour,” she said.
Another important part of the project involves teaching Skagway youth to educate visitors about Alaska’s native plants and the Skagway community.
“The nearly one million visitors to Skagway each summer will get the opportunity to see what the youth in our town can do,” McCutcheon said. “And, it’s a great opportunity for the youth to learn about our natural resources.”
First Bloom is a National Park Foundation program that plants the seeds for a stronger relationship between Americans and their national parks, beginning with our youngest citizens. First Bloom youth are engaged in regular outdoor, hands-on activities focused around native plant gardening in a national park. Other partners for the First Bloom activities are the Skagway School District and the Taiya Inlet Watershed Council. For November, on Wednesday afternoons between 3:30-4:30 pm, all youth are welcome to join the First Bloom meetings at the SRC. To see some of the children’s artwork or find more information about the project, visit www. First-bloom.org. If you would like to become involved in this project or have questions, please contact McCutcheon at 983-9243 or SRC Director Katherine Nelson at 983-2679.