LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Decades of dreaming, planning, fundraising, and building are about to pay off: Louisville’s Waterfront Botanical Gardens are open to the public.

The 23-acre urban botanical garden held a ribbon-cutting on Friday, October 4 to celebrate its grand opening. The garden is near the intersection of Frankfort Avenue and River Road and has been in the works for years.

This area was a landfill until the 1970s. It was capped with dirt and fill material covered with grass. In 2001, a generous gift from local gardener Helen Harrigan made the project possible. Harrigan had a desire to see a botanical garden in Louisville and established a trust to fund it.

The landfill site was explored, and a full environmental assessment was completed in 2013, including a thorough plant inventory. It was the perfect place to transform a “degraded landscape into a beloved destination for Louisville.” American architecture firm Perkins + Will designed the master plan.

Waterfront Botanical Gardens master plan
Perkins + Will

Two elements are now open were possible thanks to additional donations. Emil and Nancy Graeser will be honored for their donations with the Graeser Family Educational Center, the heart of educational programming at the gardens. The center will also be available for event rental. 

The Mary Lee Duthie Gardens, which surround the educational center, were a gift from George Duthie to honor the memory of his garden-loving wife. The Waterfront Botanical Gardens project has raised over $10 million from public and private donors so far.

Visiting the Botanical Gardens is free to the public. Memberships are available for those interested in exclusive events and discounts on tickets to speaker events and workshops. For more information on memberships, as well as volunteer and donation opportunities, you can visit the Waterfront Botanical Gardens' website.

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The Gardens will be open Wednesday-Sunday through the fall. From December 1 to March 1, the Gardens will only be open on weekends.

While part of the first phase is complete, more is still to come. The next phase will open in 2020 and will include the Beargrass Creek Pathway and an "immersive botanical experience" along the gardens' central promenade.

Subsequent phases will continue in the coming years and will culminate in the Conservatory, the crown jewel of the completed Waterfront Botanical Gardens.

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