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Sunday, July 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Liberty Lake sensory garden teases senses of sight, smell, hearing and touch; taste will come from grape vines

Liberty Lake Lions Club President Bill Ash and Lions member and former Liberty Lake Mayor Wendy Van Orman demonstrate the use of the “talk to” in the sensory garden next to Liberty Lake City Hall on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Liberty Lake Lions Club President Bill Ash and Lions member and former Liberty Lake Mayor Wendy Van Orman demonstrate the use of the “talk to” in the sensory garden next to Liberty Lake City Hall on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

The sensory garden near the Liberty Lake City Hall has been filling in nicely since plants were first put in the ground four years ago, with plenty of colorful flowers to see and touch.

The garden sits at the entrance of a path that leads into the city’s arboretum in a gully next to City Hall on Country Vista Drive. It’s been supported by donations from the Liberty Lake Lions Club, and their logo is stamped on a rock at the head of the trail.

“It used to be a drainage ditch,” Lions Club member and former Liberty Lake Mayor Wendy Van Orman said of the arboretum.

The strip of land for the arboretum and sensory garden was donated to the city by the Cottages Homeowners Association more than a decade ago. The colorful plants, including lavender, day lilies and Russian sage, are clustered near the street. A xylophone perched next to the trail provides the sound part of the sight, smell and touch opportunities offered by the garden. One of the plants, called Lamb’s Ear, has leaves that are silky soft to the touch.

A large stone memorial tells the story of how Stephen Liberty first settled near the lake that would later be named after him. A set of talking tubes, which allow people to talk into one tube and be heard through the other placed several feet away, spring from the ground. Two benches offer a spot to view and enjoy the flowers.

The Lions Club uses proceeds from the bed races they run at Valleyfest every year to make improvements to the garden, which has been worked on in phases.

“We’re adding a little bit per year to the garden,” Van Orman said. “Our final sense is taste. We’re going to put grape vines in.”

There are also plans to put in a gazebo with game tables a little further down the trail in the arboretum, she said. “Our hope is probably by spring,” Van Orman said.

Van Orman gives a lot of credit to the city, which maintains the garden and put in the irrigation and path. She said the Lions Club has probably contributed $5,000 toward the garden. “It’s beautiful,” she said. “It’s far beyond what I ever anticipated.”

Lions Club President Bill Ash said a sensory garden seemed a natural thing to do for an organization that helps people with glasses and hearing aids. “Part of the mission of the Lions Club is to be part of the community,” he said.

Jennifer Camp, Liberty Lake’s operations and maintenance director, said she often sees people lingering in the garden. “A lot of people come and read the rock and play with the xylophone,” she said. “It’s a really pretty entrance into the arboretum.”

She can hear the tones of the xylophone from her office at City Hall. In fact, the sound was so loud when it was first installed that neighbors complained and the sound had to be muffled. “It was pretty loud in the beginning,” she said.

During a recent trip to the garden Camp discovered the metal tubes of the xylophone were dented and pitted. They will be taken down and refurbished, she said. “These are all marks from being used,” she said. “It’s well-loved.”

At certain times of the year the city’s herd of weed eating goats can be found grazing on the steep sides of the arboretum. The goats are loved by residents, who often come to visit them as they move around town, eating weeds as they go.

The Lions Club is committed to continuing its support of the sensory garden, Van Orman said. “It’s kind of coming to fruition,” she said. “We just need to keep moving.”

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