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AN OVERVIEW OF THE CEDAR VALLEY
ARBORETUM AND BOTANIC GARDENS AT HAWKEYE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
A GREENSPACE DREAM
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.
THE DREAM PICKS UP STEAM
This is a year for laying the groundwork for the realization of the dream.
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
FROM DREAM TO A
This was a busy year for the Arboretum as work began in earnest.
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
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
THE DREAM IS TAKING SHAPE
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
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
THE DREAM PROGRESSES
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.
THE DREAM EVOLVES
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.
ENABLING GARDEN PROJECT
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
THE DREAM MOVES INTO A NEW CENTURY
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.
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 was expanded and enhanced with a new landscape design
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
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.
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.
Larger projects include;
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;
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.
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.
Some large projects are planned for this year as well
For the pergola project a $15,000 donation was received in honor of Ivan and Virginia
Meyers from their family.
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.
The gardens are put to bed for 2010 and already new sub-committees are formed to plan for exciting new things in 2011