According to an interview with Jan Guthrie and Maurine Crisp; in the late 1980’s local
gardening enthusiast Dick Meyerhoff suggested starting various clubs throughout
the Cedar Valley devoted to growing things. They would include organizations
like the Men’s Garden Club, the African Violet Club, and the Herb Club. He was
later joined by Fred Button and Tom Lawler and the three modified this idea to
eventually funneling these activities into a green space and Arboretum.

By the early 1990’s various individuals and organizations began to discuss the
possibility of developing an arboretum in Black Hawk County. This included;
Waterloo and Cedar Falls Parks Departments, Cedar Valley Men’s Garden Club, UNI
Preserve Alliance League, the Herb Club, Hawkeye Community College, Iowa State
Extension, Harmony House Horticulture Program, and Green Scene.

According to an article in the Waterloo Courier published on October 13, 1996 as
well as photo and other records contained in the Arboretum archive the
following is a progressive picture of how the facility evolved over the years.



This is a year for laying the groundwork for the realization of the dream.

  • A task force is formed to further develop the idea of a public green space in the
    Cedar Valley. This task force included; Charles Lott, Kelly Conrad, Joy Swartz,
    Jolene Rosauer, Rosemary Beach, Jan Guthrie, Craig Gibleon, Wanda Sauerbrei,
    Leila George, and Maurine Crisp.
  • An agreement is reached with Green Scene to use their non-profit status to begin
    to fund raise and create public awareness of the desire to create the
    Arboretum. In exchange the Arboretum would provide space for Green Scene to
    keep plant material.
  • A town hall meeting is held March 27, 1995 to gain public interest. Approximately
    100 people attend.
  • In April of the same year a newsletter is sent out via Green Scene introducing the
    concept of an Arboretum.
  • By May a site selection team is actively considering six sites that have been
  • A 74 acre plot owned by Hawkeye Community College is selected. By the summer of
    1995 Tom Lawler an attorney from Parkersburg has assisted in the signing of a
    99 year lease with the College. The site is just to the east of the college campus
    on Orange Road.
  • In September the Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanical Gardens at Hawkeye Community
    College receives its own non-profit organization status.
  • October of 1995 the official ground breaking ceremony takes place.


The following photos are of the site as it looked then; the western boundary adjoined Hawkeye green
space, the southern edge was Orange Road, Hess Road was the eastern boundary and
what would become Arboretum Drive was the northern boundary. The land is being
used for crop planting and is surrounded by a stock fence. There are a few
trees scattered here and there and a 300 ft. radio tower with a service road as



This was a busy year for the Arboretum as work began in earnest.

  • In January a grant was obtained from the Hotel/Motel tax fund for $12,500.
  • This money and other fund raising efforts
    resulted in a total of $50,000 that was used to develop the Master Plan for the
  • A national search was made to select a design team to develop a master plan for
    the 74 acre site. Approximately 20 potential firms were contacted.
  • Five were then selected for further review; three of which visited the site to be
  • Buettner and Associates from Fox Point Wisconsin teamed with Craig Ritland, a landscape
    architect from Waterloo and was the group selected.
  • An Ad Hoc Design Committee was formed and met in March, April, May, and June.
    Their task was to guide the development of the master plan.
  • They visited the site on numerous occasions and met with Jerry Bolton and Rod
    Swinton from Hawkeye to discuss the transition from agricultural land use to
    vegetation cover suitable for the Arboretum as it began to assume management of
    the property.
  • Craig Ritland met with a group consisting of Bob Lentz, Monica Smith, Robinson
    Engineering and other consulting engineers to discuss the impending connection
    of Hess Road with a new road going west to insure that the layout and design of
    that road was compatible with the Arboretum master plan. This new road would
    become Arboretum Drive.
  • The design team was given copies of the 1995 Prospectus and Financial Model that
    were prepared by the Arboretum committee. This team also received a conceptual
    sketch showing a “wish list” of theme gardens the committee would like to see
    included in the master plan.
  • Four additional town hall meetings are held this year with various community groups
    and valuable input is gathered.
  • A location is chosen for the first planting of new trees on site and Arnold
    Webster and Craig Gibleon plan the tree varieties based on soil type.
  • This group of trees is planted in April. They became known as the Sesquicentennial Forest to honor the celebration of Iowa’s 150 years of statehood. These trees are located east of the present day entrance gate and can be found by walking down the “gravel path” toward the creek. A sign to the south of the trail marks this group of trees.
  • Dr. Barry president of Hawkeye Community College holds a large luncheon to announce
    the creation of the Arboretum. Many community leaders attend and a tree donated
    by Bob Frost is symbolically planted.

  Following is a photo
of the first trees planted after the creation of the Arboretum

The Sesquicentennial Forest

A“farm gate” leads in off Orange Road onto a service road that gives access to
the tower and also turns to the west and travels downhill and then turns north to
the far northwest corner of the grounds.

Following is the original Master Plan; each bullet point of that plan is in bold type; what follows is what has become the present day status

Phase One-A

  • Arrival Garden-this became a series of shrub gardens just to the east of the present day parking lot across from what is now the welcome center. A trail was built leading from the parking lot up the hill toward the east.
  • Demonstration Gardens-now called Display Gardens located north and east of the tower circle
  • Vegetable and Sensory Gardens-located inside the Children’s Garden
  • Fruit Tree Orchard-not planted; this space contains Tim’s Garden and grassland
  • Wedding Garden-not planted but incorporated into the Rose Garden
  • Walled Garden-not planted
  • Herb Garden-just to the north of the Display Gardens
  • Formal Rose Garden-located between the Welcome Center on the west and the path to the Education Center on the east

Phase One-B

  • Perennial Garden-Incorporated into the Display Gardens and Tim’s Garden
  • Water Garden-not planted
  • Butterfly Garden-not planted in the location called for but incorporated into the Display Gardens
  • Sand Blow-not designated in the grounds
  • Bird Garden- Incorporated into the Display Gardens and Tim’s Garden
  • Shrub Gardens-Became the Arrival Gardens
  • Pergola Garden (with two belvederes)-not built; a pergola was added to the Rose Garden
  • Grass Garden-Located around the perimeter of the Education Center and outside the Children’s Garden named the Ornamental
    Grasses Garden in 2012
  • Fern Grotto-originally planted in the trench that runs in front of the education center but removed in 2005 and replaced by
    an Alpine Garden which became the Rock Garden in 2012
  • Moon Garden-not planted
  • Shade Garden-Located to the east of the Education Center (a paved path leads to it)

Phase Two-A

  • Pond Construction ( 4 ponds)-none of these ponds were built, however the forget-me-not pond was built as well as a small pond in
    the Railroad Garden that is within the Children’s Garden; a fish tank water feature was also built inside the Children’s Garden
  • Sheep Meadow-not developed yet (planned for 2013 as a starting point for the prairie walk)
  • Amphitheater-not built
  • Contemporary Japanese Garden-not planted

 Phase Two-B

  • Native American Garden-not planted
  • Picnic Grove-not developed
  • Visitors parking lot and visitors entrance with sign-Location changed to come in from Orange Road with the parking lot to the west of the entrance (was original part of the service road)

Phase Three

  • The land north of Arboretum Drive developed as prairie-a portion of the land was developed as a prairie; in addition a small prairie was planted in the rear of the Children’s Garden and an additional plot of ground in the far east portion of the grounds across the creek is being developed (planted in 2012)
  • In this same area the waterfowl lake (pond)-not constructed

Phase Four

  • Visitor’s Center-Never built, however, the Head House was remodeled in 2012 into a welcome center (a new maintenance barn to
    replace the head house was built in 2011)
  • Conservatory-Never built
  • Green House-Never built in the location on the plan but a green house was built as part of the enabling garden project

The original Master Site Plan was estimated to take ten years to complete and cost 14 million
dollars to accomplish.

InJuly of 1996 the master plan was completed see the photo on the next page

In order to get a clear idea of what this looks like compared to present day you need to orient yourself by looking at the plan with north being to the right side of the photo, south to the left, west is the top and east the bottom.

Orange Road is to the left of the photo (south) with Hess Road along the bottom (east) that means the road running through the photo just to the right of the third pond from the left is Arboretum Drive. This is what is talked about as the access road from Hess. To the right (north) of Arboretum Drive; the prairie and the large pond in the lower right hand corner which was called the Water Fowl Lake. The
original plan was to have the main entrance and visitor parking lot at the top of Arboretum Drive which is the far northwest corner of the property (at the top right of the photo). Just to the south of the parking lot would be a block of buildings consisting of the visitor’s center; conservatory; head house; and green house. At the far southwest corner or the upper left in the photo was to be the maintenance building with its own parking area as well as space for a nursery and compost pile. The nursery and compost pile are to the north of the Children’s Garden on the other side of the service road in back of the Red Cedar trees.
Early on it became apparent that the contour of the land made it too costly for the entrance and parking lot to be located from Arboretum Drive so those plans were put on hold. By fall 1996 fund raising efforts resulted in $65,000 in cash and $64,000 in kind of services and materials. Some of these funds came from the sale of calendars and prints by artist Jolene Rosauer. By the end of 1996; 140 trees had been planted including 55 donated by the city. Varieties included River Birch, White Spruce, and Amur Maples. As well as trees; 34 lilac bushes and several thousand bulbs were had also been planted



In June construction was begun on the Head House. This term means “a service area or building
attached to a green house.” It seemed to be a good name for this structure.Fundraising was carried out by a committee chaired by Craig Gibleon. They established a fund of $15,000. Tom Walton and the U.S. West Telephone Pioneers volunteered time to organize construction.


It was located close to where it was placed in the Master Plan but of course there was no Visitor’s Center, Conservatory, or Greenhouse.

This building later was to become the focal point, along with the area to the north of the tower; around which most of the future development would center.

At the same time the head house is being built a well is dug to give the Arboretum its own water source. (Prior to this water comes from the nearest source on Hawkeye grounds and runs along a water line on the south side of the Arboretum property) This photo shows Bob Frenchick working on that water line. Notice the barbed wire fence; the grounds were orginally pasture for livestock.

The first plantings were trees but at the same time a nursery was developed to act as a holding bed for plantings and can be seen in the background of this next photo (the ‘berms’ just across the service road from the head house)

In this photo Kelly Conrad works in the nursery.

Work now moves to the east of the head house and just north of the tower. This is a section of relatively flat land at the top of a small hill. Two tool sheds are built each with a roof so they can act as shade structures as well. Paths are laid out around an area designated for the first ornamental gardens.

These ornamental spaces will be 10’ square garden plots called community gardens.They will be annually “adopted” by volunteers who will be responsible for planting and maintaining them.

Here are examples of early community gardens and what was the Tulip Garden



Now that some tangible progress has been made it is full steam ahead and the Arboretum hires its first Executive Director; Charlie Lott. In keeping with the educational aspect of the facility a grant is obtained from the McElroy Trust for program development. Mary Norton begins an after school environmental program called Earth Connections. With an eye to the future the first phase of the underground irrigation system is built and preparations are made for future grounds development by grading 3 acres of land and starting a drainage project by tileing the area south of the Shade Garden which has been planted in a small grove of Honey Locust trees that existed on the site and is  located to the north and east of the ornamental gardens.An Arboretum committee working with Buettner and Associates develop plans for a Children’s Garden and Education Center.This year one major project is completed when the finishing touches are put on the Head House and the nursery is leveled off in anticipation of further development in that area (this is where the arrival gardens will be). The Head House contains space for equipment and an office for staff as well as a rest room.

Another project is done when Craig Gibleon and Eagle Scout candidate Alex Ginther and other scouts, parents, and friends plant trees and understory trees east of the Sesquicentennial Forest and it becomes known as the Upland Forest. The trees are grouped in plant communities with oaks and maples planted in different areas. Button bush, alder, hemlock and larch are planted in the damper areas.

The Upland Forest

Two other projects get started this year;

The prairie north of arboretum drive is established by Terry Rogers and her Hawkeye Community College Natural Resourse Management students. Eagle Scout candidates Will Dance and Phil Nicol assissted with the project. Funding was obtained from the Living Roadway Trust.

Kelly Conrad chairs a committee that raises $30,000 to construct a greenhouse and raised bed plots of ground to serve gardeners with special needs. Also included in the project will be additional shade structures on the pathways. The project will be called the Enabling Garden. Funding comes from grants by the Black Hawk County Solid Waste Commission, Gene Rothert from Chicago Botanic Garden designs
the garden and U.S. West Telephone Pioneers volunteer to build the structures.



This year Sue Shuerman is hired as Executive Director; the Enabling Garden project will be completed, ground will be broken for the Children’s Garden and Education Center, the Forget-me-not Pond will be built, and work will be begun on a large development for ornamental gardens as well as a garden in front of the Head House. There will even be some experimental efforts this year with an
ethnic garden and test plots.


This photo is actually of a test plot but notice in the background that construction is underway on the greenhouse for the Enabling Garden It is located on the path that runs from the tower northward

In the background of the photo above; construction is in full swing on the Enabling Garden Project; the shade structures and raised beds can be seen just behind the community gardens with the beginning of the green house behind them.This photo was taken with the tower behind the person that took the picture and looks toward the north.

Here is the finished greenhouse with one of the raised bed gardens. The photo below shows the what the remaining raised beds look like.

The photo above is the original Enabling Garden area; it extended from the tower on the south; northward with the shaded courtyard and then raised bed gardens and the greenhouse on the farther end. This area was all connected with a cement square pathway.

Unfortunately over time some of the structures deteriated to the point that they had to be removed, however, the raised bed gardens remain and are still in use (see the photo below)

The Forget-Me-Not-Pond (see photo below) was built by the Iowa Pond Club and the Cedar Valley Foster Parents. It is dedicated to all children in foster care who, “like flowers will blossom and grow when given roots and tender loving care.”

TheEthnic Garden was located on the grass field south of the Head House


This year also sees land to the east and across the path from the community gardens being developed. This area will become the display and herb gardens. In 1999 there are Iris beds, small contained beds, and the herb garden.

Iris beds June 1999

Forerunner of the Display Gardens

These raised beds that Sara Jansen is working in were what the Display Gardens looked like in 1999.

Also this year the Herb Garden was started (see photo below)

The community gardens are continued and a fence has been added to the West of them.

Another project for 1999 was the addition of a garden in the front of the Head House



In the early part of this new decade major changes are in store for the Arboretum. Additions to the tree collection will continue to be made and the ornamental gardens will continue to evolve but several large scale infrastructure projects are being planned. Fund raising efforts led by Jan Guthrie are gearing up.

Spring of 2000; this is what the top of “tower hill” looked like. Notice that the Education Center and Children’s Garden do not exist yet nor is there a rose garden.


The focus of the growing season for this year is on the establishment of one more of the elements of the original site plan; a formal Rose Garden. It would be located uphill to the east of the head house.

The next images are what the Rose Garden looked like in its beginning.

The brick path leads from the community garden area into the Rose Garden.

 A second stone pillar is put in place to anchor the continuation of the cedar fence to be added later and to recognize one of the major funding sources for this area.


Another year and another major building project

The Education Center and Children’s Garden become a reality with major funding coming from the
McElroy Trust, Community Foundation, and Max and Helen Guernsey. In addition there were a great many private donations.

The Education Center building is in front with the Childrens' Garden to the north

In the future there will be trees planted in four circles to the left of the photo. Just inside the fence to the right will be an evergreen forest. The three silos are funded by the Community Foundation. The odd shaped space in front of the silos will become the Railroad Garden. To the rear of the space a miniature prairie will be planted.


The site is taking on a more “polished” look with its changing landscape; Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa donates funds to build a welcome kiosk

The Arboretum main entrance; now located off Orange Road; is remodeled with $30,000 raised by a committee chaired by Jan Guthrie. A new gate is put in place with funds donated by Bill and Harriet Rickert. This gate is designed by their grandson Brian Barnes a landscape architect in Chicago.


This year saw some needed repairs done such as the upgrade of the signboard and electrical system. Some areas were tiled for better drainage and the irrigation system was upgraded. Continuation of the tree collection moves forward with the planting of trees funded by Green Scene and the entire collection is re-inventoried. Also donor recognition nameplates are upgraded to engraved stainless steel.

In addition several projects were also accomplished.

  • Shade Garden enhancement
  • Cleaned out and re-formed and re-shaped Forget-Me-Not Pond
  • Graded and surfaced entry road and parking lot with gravel and limestone
  • Constructed Railroad Garden within the Children’s Garden with a gift of $328 from the
    Principal Financial Group to purchase tracks
  • Built an additional kiosk across the service road from the Head House


Shade Garden was expanded and enhanced with a new landscape design

Forget-me-not Pond is cleaned and re-shaped
The parking lot is surfaced; notice the center used to have Northern Catalpa trees and box hedges
The rail road is added to the Children's Garden
New kiosk just east of the Head House across the service road


Another year of work and more development; 80 trees are planted; a shrub garden is planted called The Arrival Gardens. These gardens are designed to lead you up the hill to the east. A brick path that circles the eastern edge of the parking lot is built all with volunteer labor. Seating for the various areas in the grounds was constructed; we converted the fern gully south of the Education Center to the Alpine Garden; we installed green metal information signs in various areas of the grounds

This photo is five years after the establishment of these gardens
Benches designed by John Miller and dedicated to Aldo Leopold
The Fern Gully becomes the Alpine Garden
Several new informational signs are installed


The continuous effort to upgrade and enhance all aspects of the facility is ongoing. This year the head house was painted along with the signboard, the rose arbor and the tool sheds. A one mile walking trail was developed and marked with 1/10 mile posts. Rose identification signs were installed. Eight more benches were built and placed around the grounds, in addition the community gardens were edged with stone blocks. Of course we never miss an opportunity to add to the tree collection and 25 Red Cedar trees were planted to the north just outside  the Children’s Garden. There were also a few larger projects completed this year.

  • Constructed a pond in the Railroad Garden within the Children’s Garden
  • Developed new garden area around the Forget-Me-Not Pond
  • Renovated track base of Railroad Garden and bought G-scale electric train and planted miniature
    plants around the track
  • Constructed limestone path between parking lot and Hawkeye Community College
Railroad Garden Pond
Forget-me-not Pond Garden
G-scale train and miniature plants
Walkway to Hawkeye; white post is mile marker


As time passes the trees are becoming more mature but the need for on-going maintenance of the grounds continues and we never stop trying to develop new and exciting features. This year a berm is created to act as a focal point for a Conifer Specimen Collection located just outside the Children’s Garden entrance; the Rose Garden will be re-planted with additional perennials; and a grass “labyrinth” will be added as a feature of interest.

The Labyrinth

Larger projects include;

  • Redesigned and replanted the Display Gardens and installed pop-up irrigation
  • Installed large boulders outside the Children’s Garden for landscape interest and recognition of donors
  • Dismantled the south tool shed and repurposed it as a shade structure
Display Gardens
Ornamental Boulder
Toot shed re-purposed as a shade structure


As always change is a constant for the Arboretum; this year we Hired Mollie (Luze) Aronowitz as full time Director of Horticulture. General cleanup included edging around all gardens and trees; removal of the remaining “livestock”fence; repainting the interior of the Education Center and the installation of an air conditioner. In addition we purchased lab tables, GPS devices, telescopes, digital cameras, computer and projector for the educational programs.

Larger projects included;

  • Construction of a cedar fence east of the Rose Garden and planting new hardy shrub roses
  • Installed arch between pillars at the entrance to the Children’s Garden which was designed by Deb Ewoldt from Blacksmith Boutique in Dysart Iowa
Rose Garden fence going to the south
New arch on Children's Garden gate


The Arboretum has been in existence for over 10 years and this year is a time to get some of the systems updated so we redeveloped the volunteer program to include a more formal program to recruit and retain volunteers. Developed orientation handbooks and sign up forms and he Board of Directors developed policies for acquisition of public art, facility rentals, gift acceptance, and on-site professional photography. One major project this year is the addition of a concrete path to the Shade Garden Also a terrible loss as all the Catalpa trees in the center of the parking lot have died and must be removed. They are replaced by 5 Honey Locust trees.

New hard surface path to Shade Garden
The Catalpas are removed
New Honey Locust

The grounds continue to mature and get more and more beautiful


As the new growing season starts a number of small projects are planned. We will plant a variety of perennials in the Rose Garden to add year round interest; the enabling beds will be planted with annuals and grasses; a variety of fruits and vegetables will be planted in the Children’s Garden; tracks will be added to the Railroad Garden with additional dwarf conifers and six new directional signs are to be installed Also this year we take a look into the near future and start to plan for what comes next. A site development committee was formed and issued a report. Funding is secured for a new and larger maintenance building.

Rose Garden
Enabling Garden
Rail Road Garden

Some large projects are planned for this year as well

  • A pergola was built in the Rose Garden
  • Four cedar wood planters were built by Randy Robinson and placed in the Rose Garden
  • The entrance was given a “face-lift”

For the pergola project a $15,000 donation was received in honor of Ivan and Virginia
Meyers from their family.

New pergola in the Rose Garden
New plant boxes

The entrance was enhanced by removing the gates and using them as a backdrop. The flowerbeds were reshaped and planted with perennials. Grass was planted to fill in unused space and Spring-flowering bulbs planted.

Re-configured entrance gates

The gardens are put to bed for 2010 and already new sub-committees are formed to plan for exciting new things in 2011

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