A Place to Sit and Enjoy the View

Boy Scout Jacob McKnight of Troop 32 from Westminster Presbyterian Church in Waterloo recently built new Leopold Benches for the Arboretum as his project to earn his Eagle Scout Award.



An example of A Leopold Bench at the Arboretum


Leopold benches are easy to build projects created by Aldo Leopold. Aldo was born in Burlington, IA, in 1887 and is considered by many to be the father of wildlife ecology and the United States’ wilderness system. Aldo Leopold was a conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast. You can learn more about Aldo here. You can also download the plans to make your own Leopold bench here.

Jacob thought the benches would be a great project to complete for the Arboretum as he had previously visited the Arboretum and suggested that there should be more benches for visitors to sit on. Jacob took the lead to solve the problem and looked up plans for Leopold benches on the internet. After comparing plans he selected one and got estimates for the amount of wood and hardware needed for the benches. He then gathered other scouts to help and adult leaders to supervise the group as they were using power tools.

For Jacob, one of the hardest parts was making sure the measurements were right and that the parts went together correctly. His favorite part of the project was learning about how to build the benches and then seeing the completed benches when they were done. Jacob is very happy to know that his work will be appreciated by all the visitors at the Arboretum!



A tribute by Paul Kammerdiner

There are times in every writer’s experience when the story moves you on many levels. At those times the keyboard gets splashed with tears and you feel foolish, especially when the story is not yours. However, these stories are important and need to be told, even if they have been told before. One would hardly think that trees and gardens would spark certain emotions, but a public space that has been created largely by volunteers lends itself to stories. I suggest that everything related to people contains stories. This one is about some of our history.

There are several definitions of history in the dictionary. Here are two of them:

  1. The study of past events, particularly in human affairs.
  2. The whole series of past events connected with someone or something.

In my mind, the history of people is much more interesting than memorizing events and dates.

I have the privilege of being the unofficial historian of the Arboretum, which just means I like to dig through all the old files and photos that have been stuffed in boxes and file cabinets. Because we have limited storage space for paper documents, many of them ended up in the barn (not an environment conducive to preservation). Recently I have been sorting through what is there and discovered a tote box filled with photo albums, none of which I had ever seen. This new information means I will need to re-write the history that is presently on the website, but that is another story.

Coincidentally, a scrapbook was brought into the Arboretum office by a past volunteer. It was a treasure trove of information on one of the Arboretum’s favorite attractions.

We have two water features at the Arboretum, both of which are fish ponds. One is in the Children’s Garden, and the other is on Tower Hill and is nestled between the Display Gardens and Tim’s Garden. It is called the Forget Me Not Pond. I was sort of familiar with its history, mostly from the sign that is there. Have you ever read it? I mean the top part, not so much the part about the fish.

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Anyway, back to the scrapbook. I was delighted with its photos and documents and got a much better idea of the full story. The pond was created in 1999, only three years after the creation of the Arboretum.

May is National Foster Care Month, and in May of 1995 Chris Wendel wrote;

“Some people plant a garden with vegetables and/or flowers. They work hard tilling the ground, fertilizing, pulling weeds and trying to protect them from bugs, rabbits, harsh weather. They enjoy watching the life cycle of the plants and with much patience wait for maturity. The satisfaction comes with the tasting of the fruit of their labors or beholding the beauty of creation and being part of it. Next season…. They start all over again.

Why start over again? Do people question the gardener? No.

Do people question the foster parent? Yes. (The secret is not so different)

I’m a foster parent. My garden is children, over 50 varieties in the past 15 years. No two are alike. As the gardener…. It is hard work. We nurture, protect, pull weeds and deal with the storm. It is very rewarding to watch them blossom and go forth. Would I do it all again tomorrow? You bet!”

There you have the inspiration for our fish pond. But like all things at the Arboretum, it didn’t spring from the ground.  After all, there are no fish pond seeds on the market. It took planning, time, money, and hard work. Here is a quote from a letter to the editor written by Sue Strever, program coordinator of the Iowa Citizen Foster Care Review Board at that time.

“Volunteers from the Eastern Iowa Pond Society donated funds and the labor to create a beautiful pond and waterfall, the centerpiece to the garden.

Kelly Conrad of Harmony House in Waterloo volunteered her time to plan the garden, using soft fragrant flowers that could be enjoyed by children visiting the garden. Kelly chose flowers with children’s names such as Lilies, Daisies, and Black-Eyed Susans. All of the plants were donated by Harmony House. Craig Gibleon of the Cedar Valley Arboretum provided technical assistance and support for the project and a bench for visitors to sit and enjoy the garden. Standard Golf donated a beautiful commemorative plaque for the garden.”

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This is the original plaque. It says; “Forget Me Not. Dedicated to all children in foster care, who like flowers, will blossom and grow when given roots and tender loving care.” May 1999

That was the motivation for the project. If anything can be called a labor of love, this is it. So here then, is a pictorial of the Forget Me Not Pond.

You have to survey the site.

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You have to dig the hole.

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You have to line the pond.

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You have to run water lines.

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You have to wash off the rocks.

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Sometimes you have to take a break.

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You have to place the rocks and install the waterfall.

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You have to plant the trees and flowers.

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Finally, you get to take a photo of the finished product.

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This is the only photo that had names with it so I will include them with my apologies to the rest of the people. Unfortunately, the other pictures were not labeled.

These names were from tags signed by the individuals so I may not have them spelled correctly (some were hard to read):

Barb and Dennis Daniels, Harry and Jackie Allsup, Pat and Wayne Beuiter, Dennis and Chris Wendle, Larry Rufter, Rick Fangman, Roger Thurin, Sindelar Dennis, Roger Lynch, Jim Sealman, Keven Jones.

My thanks to whoever brought this scrapbook in and gave it to us. What a joy and inspiration to all the volunteers at the Arboretum!  Finally, a couple of recent photos of the For Get Me Not Pond provide proof of its enduring legacy.

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All things change over time. Some of the original trees did not survive, the first sign has been replaced with a new one, and some of the other plantings have like-wise not made it. But true to one of our firmly held sayings, “Ever Changing, Ever Growing,” this garden continues to thrive and is being constantly added to with what we hope are improvements, while always staying true to the vision and dedication of those first creators.

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