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The pollinator garden is on the left between the sidewalk and the building. The ramp is visible as well as a sign mapping out the Garden plans. The concrete ramp will connect to the path encircling the Garden space.

On a blustery January day, the space to the right and behind the Milton Public Library is less than attention-grabbing.

The pollinator flower bed running alongside the building holds dried flower stalks long past their summer bloom. A couple raised beds at the top of a sloping sidewalk ramp are equally dull and gray. Down the ramp, the open space is snow-covered and bare, with a few trees further out.

Nothing is happening there in these cold winter months, but come spring, it will be a different story—pun intended. After several years of planning and fund-raising, the library’s Story Gardens is poised for big additions this year.

“This spring, a lot will be happening outside for the Story Gardens,” said Library Director Ashlee Kunkel, bubbling with enthusiasm.

A few things are already in place: the concrete ramp making the area accessible, the pollinator garden alongside the building and the two raised beds.

Kunkel is especially excited about a $5,000 grant recently received from the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation. This grant will cover the cost of installing StoryWalk stations along a concrete path circling the garden.

Each of the 17 stations along the path will consist of a wooden post holding a protective plexiglass case. Library staff will insert a book page in each case so that visitors can walk along, reading the story as they go.

Kunkel said the books will change periodically and will be used to complement their programming.

“If we’re having a program about owls, we’ll have owl information on there and people can walk around and learn about owls,” she said. “We don’t want the same story out there for months and months, so we’ll change it up.”

The Story Gardens and the StoryWalk stations will connect the library’s indoor programing to the outdoors. “That’s really what the Story Gardens’ base is—for us to bring our programming outside,” Kunkel said.

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A close-up of the sign.

Kunkel envisions various ways to use the stations. Literacy programming, programs highlighting local authors and Wisconsin authors and themes specific to the area, such as Milton’s role in the Underground Railroad and other local history topics are a few possibilities.

People are encouraged to check out the StoryWalk on their own.

The StoryWalk project, created and trademarked by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, poses endless possibilities for bringing literacy, movement and the outdoors together.

“I’m so excited for these,” Kunkel said. “When we first started talking about having these gardens out there, I was like, ‘we have to have a StoryWalk!’”

While the StoryWalk stations will be a prime feature of the Story Garden, another grant awarded by the Green Bay Packers Foundation will fund concrete chess tables and stools for the area.

“People can use their own chess and checker pieces and we’ll have some available for check-out here at the library,” Kunkel said.

The Story Garden project includes artwork as well. Two mosaics created by local artists Heather Hansen and Connie Bier already adorn the pollinator garden during the warmer weather. This spring, an abstract sculpture reflecting the struggles of those with eating disorders will be created on-site by local artist Aimee Leonard.

“We also have an artist creating a metal archway that’s going to be at the top of the ramp leading down to the Story Gardens,” Kunkel said. Created by metal sculptor Brady Lueck, Kunkel expects that, too, will be ready this spring.

The work being done this year—which will include construction of a 20-foot by 20-foot gazebo—is just part of the vision for the overall project.

“What we’re working on is kind of like Phase I, which will be the gazebo, the walkway, the chess tables, the StoryWalk stations and additional art pieces,” she said.

There are no firm plans for a second phase. “But,” she said, “we’re very excited about what we know is coming.”

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