The $62 million, 8-acre Rory Meyers Adventure Garden opens Sept. 21.

The $62 million, 8-acre Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden opens Sept. 21.

The Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden opens Sept. 21 — the same day as the Dallas Arboretum launches into its no. 1 busiest season, Autumn at the Arboretum.

There are 17 learning-focused exhibits in the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden.

There are 17 learning-focused exhibits in the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden.

That means increased attendance and a critical need for more parking.

The proposed parking garage across Garland Road is scheduled to begin construction in October, pending the Dallas City Council’s approval of the specific use permit required to build an underground walkway, connecting the children’s garden entrance. The garage won’t open until fall 2014.

In the meantime, the Arboretum will continue shuttling visitors from the temporary overflow lot at Gaston and Grand, used during peak seasons. That contract expires next June as Lincoln Property Co. plans to redevelop the area in to the Arboretum Village shopping center.

John Armstrong, the Arboretum’s vice president of property development, did not give specifics about where additional parking spaces would be located during the summer until the garage opens in the fall.

“We have never turned away somebody from the Arboretum,” he says. “We have always found a parking space for them.”

There are 17 learning-focused exhibits in the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden.

There are 17 learning-focused exhibits in the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden.

Seventeen years in the making, the $62 million, 8-acre children’s garden has long been touted as an “outdoor science lab,” home to more than 17 science exhibits designed to teach kids (and adults, for that matter) about the world around them.

The garden, open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, has a capacity for about 1,500 people, and, because of timed tickets, it will turn over twice a day. Last year, about 1 million people visited the Arboretum. Terry Lendecker, with advertising and promotions at the Arboretum, says the Arboretum hopes the children’s garden will double attendance, attracting visitors locally and even globally.

Right now, there are 1,260 parking spaces throughout the grounds. The Gaston and Grand lot provides about 600-700 more spaces. Parking in front of the children’s garden will be valet only.

The Arboretum will lose 268 spaces during construction of the new parking garage. The site is currently a surface lot used for for employees and volunteers. The garage, once it opens, will provide 1,158 spaces.

Mary Griggs of the Emerald Isle Neighborhood Association says the children’s garden is about 50 feet away from one of two access roads to her neighborhood, and the new deceleration lanes have already limited the Garland Road entrance and exits on that street to right turns only.

“I’m pleased that the Arboretum is going to provide for parking in a controlled area [the parking garage],” Griggs says. “But at this point I do not know how that is going to affect the traffic on Garland Road or the residents’ access in and out of the neighborhood. However, all the traffic will certainly affect our tranquil area.

“During certain times of the day and certain times of the year we may have problems. We will have to wait and see.”

“During certain times of the day and certain times of the year we may have problems. We will have to wait and see.”

Armstrong says the garage will meet the Arboretum’s parking needs, for “the foreseeable future.” But there may be four or five days during summer 2014 when it won’t, he says, and temporary overflow will come into play again.

As the Arboretum continues to grow, so will the need for more parking. Armstrong says another parking solution is possible several years down the road.

Know before you go

If Alice in Wonderland and Bill Nye the Science Guy had a baby, that baby would feel right at home in the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden — scampering through the treetops on the canopy walk, learning about photosynthesis, shooting energy rays at gigantic solar panel flowers, and searching for critters in the woodlands.

Here are some facts to know before you go, provided by Maria Conroy, the vice president of education at the Dallas Arboretum, who had a big hand in the 17-year planning process.

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  • The adventure garden might look lush and green now, but once upon a time it was a bamboo forest. Not many trees survived the aggressive plant’s takeover, so the Arboretum had to transplant hundreds of trees, even massive full-grown ones, into the area. “Some of those we dug up and transplanted from areas we’ve turned into parking lots,” Conroy says.
  • The waterfall, which you can see at the entrance and from other locations in the garden, isn’t just for looks; it’s also the air-conditioning system for the Exploration Center. “It’s cooled and heated by that waterfall. When the water falls, the air cools it off, and it enters the building and then absorbs the heat in the building and goes back up to the waterfall.”
  • Make sure to pack a picnic. There is food available for purchase, but you can bring food inside the garden for no extra charge.
  • You wouldn’t know it, but there are giant vaults under the ground. “There’s a lot,” Conroy says. “It’s like a whole other city under the ground. That’s where we capture the rain run-off, and then when we’re in a drought we use the water in those vaults to irrigate the garden.”
  • Each of the exhibits was custom designed, which is why it took so long to research, create and build. “It takes a long time to invent the wheel,” Conroy says. “All of the exhibits were designed and prototyped and built just for us, so you won’t see anything else like it.”
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