The main part of an expansion and renovation project at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens officially got underway on Wednesday morning.

Laramie County voters in 2012 approved spending $16 million in sixth-penny sales tax revenues on the project. Botanic Gardens Executive Director Shane Smith says about $14 million of that total is available for actual construction work, with the remaining $2 million earmarked for associated  operating expenses.

Some of that has already been spent fro roadwork associated with the gardens. The work that officially got underway on Wednesday includes an upgrade in the gardens greenhouse that was originally built in 1986.

Smith says another major part of the  project is a Grand Conservatory. That structure will include sub-tropical public areas, rooms for meetings, balconies and an education area. Smith says the education section that will include, among other things, microscopes and possibly a naval periscope.

Smith says if weather cooperates and all goes well, most of the work could be finished in roughly 18 months.

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