McKinley Barrier Free Park in Fraser will now feature a sensory garden, set to be completed in November, that will allow everyone in the community to enjoy aspects of the garden.

McKinley Barrier Free Park in Fraser will now feature a sensory garden, set to be completed in November, that will allow everyone in the community to enjoy aspects of the garden.

Photo provided by Sue Fox


Sensory garden installed in McKinley Barrier Free Park

By: Brendan Losinski | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published October 13, 2021

 The sensory garden at McKinley Barrier Free Park was built and installed by the Women Build group from Macomb County Habitat for Humanity, who took some time off from building homes to volunteer their skills at the park.

The sensory garden at McKinley Barrier Free Park was built and installed by the Women Build group from Macomb County Habitat for Humanity, who took some time off from building homes to volunteer their skills at the park.

Photo provided by Sue Fox

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FRASER — The McKinley Barrier Free Park in Fraser has recently added one of its last major attractions: a sensory garden.

The garden’s creation was organized by the Fraser First Booster Club, which has been leading the charge for setting up the barrier free park. A sensory garden is a garden with attractions able to be enjoyed by people even if they do not possess a certain sense such as sight or smell. The garden also has a series of raised flower beds so those unable to bend down in the dirt also can enjoy gardening.

“The sensory garden is going to be beautiful landscaping with all kinds of sensory items that will be able to offer smell and touch options, as well as raised garden beds,” explained booster club president Sherry Stein. “It’s about getting people active and out there and giving them social opportunities. It brings people out to be social. It helps your physical health in the fresh air and also builds community and belonging.”

McKinley Barrier Free Park is on Grove Street, between Masonic and 13 Mile Road. The purpose of it being a barrier free park — and by extension, the purpose of the sensory garden — is to create a park that everyone in the community can enjoy.

“It features surfaces and plant life that people can touch or smell or even taste. There will be a flower posy chime set that people can use to make noise. We want to engage all of people’s senses,” said Stein. “This will be done and open to the public by the end of November. We can’t plant much with winter coming, but it will be open to the public.”

Stein said that putting the sensory garden into the park has been a community effort.

“We are starting the landscaping around Oct. 4,” Stein said. “Mike’s Lawn is doing the landscaping. Linden Construction and Mini Mix also helped us a lot with the cement slabs that will be going under the garden beds. They donated all the time, materials and labor. Women from Habitat for Humanity built them all themselves. … So this really was a community effort.”

Among the biggest supporters of the park during its entire creation phase has been the Hanover Grove Collective. Its board president, Gary Niedojadlo, said that with several seniors living there who have mobility or functionality issues, and with the park right on the border of Hanover Grove, contributing to projects like the sensory garden was a no-brainer.

“When they’re talking about a sensory garden, they’re talking about a space where if someone is blind, for instance, they can still come in and smell and feel things,” Niedojadlo said. “It’s not just something where you can see butterflies or flowers. By having touch, smell and feel options, it helps ensure those with disabilities still be part of the community. It also teaches children how to maintain a garden where, if you put some work in, this is what you get out of it.”

The garden was built and installed mostly by the Women Build group from Macomb County Habitat for Humanity. While members of the group usually are building houses for those in need, they took some time in September to put in the garden.

“It was a great project for us to work on. It’s a lot different than what we normally do since we’re used to building houses, but the results couldn’t be better,” said group leader Deb McKinley. “It was interesting because we’ve never built anything like this, so we had one of the guys with Vania (Apps, founder of the Fraser First Booster Club) do a mock-up for us and that helped somewhat. We still had to have to figure it out as we went, though. It was a great project to work on, though. It required us to think outside of the box.”

With many Habitat for Humanity projects getting put on hold due to COVID-19, the Women Build team has been finding other ways to help out.

“One of the gals who built with us several years back knows Vania, and she mentioned that we might be interested in helping out, so Vania called us,” recalled McKinley. “There’s about eight of us who get together to put homes together for Habitat. We haven’t been building many houses lately, so we went south to help rebuild some houses, and we got involved in this project instead.”

Those behind the project agreed that this was the perfect addition to a community like Fraser and think it will be a big benefit to its residents.

“I think the concept is fabulous,” McKinley remarked. “I have been there a few times. It’s a great park with great room to expand, and it’s in a great location and it has great amenities. For us to be a part of this was pretty awesome.”

“You have to see it, you have to smell it, you have to feel it, as though it’s the first time you have experienced something like this to take advantage of what is in nature,” Niedojadlo added. “It provides something really special and unique for people. It’s not just a fun place to go, it’s a teaching tool.”

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