Special sensory garden opening in Hanover Park

A new community garden opening outside the offices of the Hanover Park Park District is attempting to engage all the senses of visitors.

More than just pretty flowers and unusual plants, the specially designed “sensory garden” allows visitors to see, smell, touch, hear and even taste their way through about 1,300 square feet.

The sensory garden — one of the first in the area — was designed to engage all of the senses with designated areas throughout, said Kate Moran, Northwest Special Recreation Association collaborative coordinator.

“The space allows the (therapists) to break down barriers and adapt the task to the individual's specific needs, while providing equitable access to nature,” Moran said. “By interacting with nature, we have continued to see our visitors achieve countless goals.”

Andrea Griffin, superintendent of recreation for the association, said the sensory garden also allows the agency's certified therapeutic recreation specialists to use nature-based activities and interventions to focus on mental, physical, psychological, social and spiritual functioning.

Along with greenery, vegetables and an accessible walkway, the features include butterfly garden and a lending library of different books, objects and seeds, plus a scavenger hunt.

The garden also has set goals, like anxiety reduction and tension regulation, as well as developing gross motor skills, expanding cognitive abilities and forming relationships for some of the special needs visitors.

“We are excited about the amount of community interaction the garden has brought,” Griffin said.

The ultimate goal, Moran said, is to incorporate nature into recreation, along with cultivating an inclusive space.

The project was first introduced in 2018. The recreation association worked closely with its foundation, Special Leisure Services, to receive funding.

“We decided, looking out our window one day, that it would be a great spot,” Griffin said.

The space right outside the association's programming room at the park district's headquarters, 1919 Walnut Ave., was unused and had “gone to the weeds” said Bob O'Brien, executive director of the Hanover Park Park District.

“It's 100% better than it was five years ago,” O'Brien noted.

The sensory garden also is cared for by many of the special recreation agency's participants.

To complete the project, the recreation association worked with the Harper College Welding Program, the Schaumburg Monarch Initiative, the Tri-Village Garden Club and Boy Scout Troop 196 from Schaumburg.

Organizations and businesses like the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters, Hoelternoff Nursery, Reds Garden Center & Fire Place Logs, Pesche's Flowers and Midwest Groundcovers all made donations to the project.

O'Brien said there are more plans for the garden.

“To provide services and opportunities to people with disabilities is the main goal,” he said.

  A monarch butterfly lands on a flower at the new sensory garden outside the Hanover Park Park District Community Center. Brian Hill/
  The new sensory garden at Hanover Park Park District's Community Center at 1919 Walnut Ave. contains a variety of features to engage all five senses of visitors to the 1,300-square-foot outdoor space. Brian Hill/
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