Monday, August 20, 2012

GBG treehouse ready for children

Children love the swing bridge at the GBG treehouse.

Construction of the treehouse in the children’s garden at the Georgeson Botanical Garden has been completed and visitors are delighted with the structure.

With all the other work at the garden, the treehouse took many years to finish. Its benefactor, Walt Babula, a Fairbanks orthodontist, surveyed the project with pride Aug. 17. He gave credit to Grant Matheke, SNRAS agriculture assistant, for his excellent carpentry skills and for working so diligently on the treehouse.

Dr. Babula and GBG director Pat Holloway envision educational displays being added to the treehouse. There is already a sap meter which measures tree sap, but more placards will be added to help children learn about the flora and fauna in the garden.

“As it develops it will be a magnet for children,” Babula said. “It all takes time. It’s a learning experience.”

Babula and his wife Marita have been working with children for 40 years through their orthodontic practice and wanted to give back to the community via the GBG children’s garden. Dr. Babula has not only been the major financial backer of the project for the past nine years, it is not unknown for him to move rocks, plant flowers and do manual labor. He estimates he works in the garden at least 100 hours a year.

“I want it to be a learning place for kids forever,” he said. “We wanted to have an environment for children where they could have fun learning and interacting with nature.”

New additions this summer include a bear carved out of a 28-inch log, a weather station complete with a sundial made of tiles, a cache and a water mill that generates electricity. No aspect goes unobserved by Dr. Babula. He hires students to assist with the maintenance in the summer and asked artists to paint the trash cans.

Pat Holloway said there will likely be an open house or dedication next summer. “We are planning educational activities related to natural resources management,” she said. “We want to show how a scientist measures plant grown and what a forester might use. We’ll highlight birds of farm and field.”
Special touches make the treehouse a beautiful place to visit.

Walt Babula with the new carved bear in the children's garden.

Walt Babula and Grant Matheke

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