SOMERS, N.Y. – In just a few months, nature lovers will be able to visit a tropical rainforest, without having to travel to South America, Africa or Asia, said Ted Kozlowski, manager of the Lasdon Park and Arboretum in Somers.
Ten years – and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears – in the making, the park’s new Glass House Conservatory is set to open on Saturday, June 17.
Its first exhibit, titled “The Rainforest: Tropical Treasures,” will feature, not only exotic plants and flowers, but water features and the sounds of such jungle denizens as macaws, jaguars, and poison dart frogs.
“It’s our version of Disneyland,” Kozlowski said Tuesday, adding that there may even be fog and a “thunderstorm” or two among the special effects.
“We want people to feel they’re walking into something special,” he explained.
It took more than 200 yards of concrete and five tons of rebar – not to mention mountains of glass, to build the 2,500-square-foot structure.
Tons and tons of crushed rock, bluestone, and native stone were used for the foundation’s façade.
Tasked with building the project is Rough Brothers Inc., of Cincinnati, a firm which is credited with the construction of conservatories around the world, including the New York Botanical Garden, the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington and the Royal Botanical Gardens in London.
The new conservatory will feature horticultural exhibits and will be made available for weddings, events, and concerts. It will also provide needed space for Lasdon to expand its own traditional holiday shows and events. It will also serve as a backdrop for the park’s summer concert series.
Westchester County contributed more than $1.3 million to the project from its capital program.
It took a lot of fundraising and sponsorships through the Friends of Lasdon in conjunction with the County Parks department.
A-Team Construction has donated much of the project’s construction work, valued at more than $350,000.
More than $700,000 was raised through the efforts of the Westchester Parks Foundation, the 9th District of the NYS Federated Garden Clubs and the Lasdon Family Foundation.
But the soon-to-be “crown jewel” of Westchester horticulture is really the brainchild of one very dedicated plant pathologist, said Kozlowski.
Ilse Biedermann was the founder of Friends of Lasdon and those that knew her said her passion for plans was not only boundless but contagious.
“She was like a grandmother to me; I sorely miss her,” said Kozlowski.
It was Biedermann’s dream to build a new, larger greenhouse at Lasdon where children could be educated about horticulture and conservation, he added.
Biedermann, who died in 2006, was also a lover of orchids, according to her obituary in The New York Times.
The German-born Ossining resident worked for years as a research scientist at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which had operated a research center at the Kitchawan Preserve until the early 1990s.
When the botanic gardens gave up its Ossining outpost, Biedermann, who was working on a new species of magnolia, arranged to have the plants moved to Lasdon, a county-owned park, in 1986, The New York Times’ obit said.
A dogged protector of open space, Biedermann never minced words if she thought the county wasn’t doing its duty as far as land development went, the obit said.
Kozlowski, now in his early 60s and approaching retirement, said he has no doubt that Biedermann would be thrilled to see her biggest dream become reality.
As for himself, Kozlowski gets to witness the progress being made on the conservatory every day by just peeking out his office window.
“I’m tickled pink,” he admitted.
The park plans to host a gala celebration of the conservatory’s opening from 7-10 p.m. on Wednesday, June 14.
Cocktail attire is required.
To buy tickets for the evening of live music, entertainment and hors d’oeuvres, visit www.LasdonPark.org .
Tickets go on sale on April 15.
Lasdon Park is located at 2610 Route 35. It can be reached by calling (914) 864-7263.