A green space can do a lot of things — provide a place for recreation and storytelling, increase heathy food awareness, serve as an outdoor classroom or encourage community gatherings. And, as the YWCA of Asheville recently found out, a green space can even be a way to alleviate a congested parking lot and honor the memory of a beloved community member.
The Asheville Design Center, through its Asheville DesignBuild Studio, is helping the YWCA to construct an outdoor classroom, covered pick-up spot and memorial garden honoring community activist, entrepreneur and former YWCA board president Laurey Masterton, who died in February.
According to Chris Joyell, executive director of The Asheville Design Center, the YWCA first approached ADC about creating a master plan that would help alleviate traffic congestion in its parking lot — where parents pick up and drop off over 200 children daily. The project was selected for the Asheville DesignBuild Studio, a 10-week program that tasks students from different design disciplines with creating a project that will have “a lasting and positive impact on the community,” Joyell says.
Construction on the first phase of the project — a covered area over the stairs on the side of the YWCA’s building — is nearly complete. The area will serve as a drop-off and pick-up area where parents can easily meet their kids, instead of parking and going into the building.
“The design will allow traffic to keep flowing, even in inclement weather, but that’s only the first part of the master plan,” Joyell says. “It was very important to the YWCA to also find a way to honor Laurey and her legacy in Asheville.”
The students at DesignBuild Studio created plans for a pavilion and an edible garden, which will rest in an unused green space at the top of the stairs. The garden’s design includes hexagon-shaped raised beds clustered together in the shape of a honeycomb, an homage to Masterton’s passion for beekeeping. Children in the YWCA’s after-school and summer programs also contributed ideas for the garden, including art installations of bees and honeycombs that will be built into the surrounding fence.
YWCA Executive Director Beth Maczka said this will be the organization’s second on-site garden. The original, which is located near the childcare facilities and is closed to the public, was started by Masterton.
“We wanted to expand on what she had started and create a green space that the public could see and visit, that could also be used by the kids as part of their outdoor learning environment,” Maczka says.
Maczka added that the YWCA decided to focus on edibles in the garden in order to foster its emphasis on healthy eating.
“We wanted something that would be enticing to the kids to just reach out and try something,” Maczka says. “We’re calling it a snack garden.”
The covered drop-off area will be completed in time for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, Aug. 8, but the DesignBuild Studio students will wrap up their course before the garden is installed. Joyell and Mackza say the YWCA is accepting monetary and resource donations — including lumber and soil for the raised beds — to help meet their goal of having the garden completed in September.
Maczka says she feels the garden will be a fitting memorial to Masterton, who worked to foster child nutrition and welfare, as well as community well-being.
“She was really committed to our mission of eliminating racism, empowering women and creating a Beloved Community — a place where everyone is welcome,” Maczka says. “She cared about people who were frequently forgotten.”