"French Creek and the Lake Erie Shoreline"

Community Gardens Brighten Erie and Meadville Neighborhoods

Community flower gardens in the French Creek watershed and around the City of Erie have enhanced local communities for over a decade, as volunteers help to plant and tend more than 3,000 flowers annually. Two gardens in this region evoke community enthusiasm and support with the help of local businesses, community partnerships and committed stewards.

Oasis in an Erie Neighborhood

Committed volunteers and other community partners help ensure that the Conservancy’s garden at East Avenue and Sixth Street in Erie continues to flourish. Installed in 2000, the garden has been managed by volunteer stewards Susan Moyer and her husband Mark Alexa since 2005. “The first year we tried to do it by ourselves, and it was very difficult work with just a couple of people, especially when we needed to pull the plants,” said Moyer.

Marigolds and red salvias bloom
at the Second District Elementary
School in Meadville.
Marigolds and red salvias bloom at the Second District Elementary School in Meadville.

Now, with the help of volunteer groups, the triangle-shaped garden blooms with more than 1,100 plants each year.

Teachers and students from Wayne Middle School, located across the street from the garden, help plant and weed the garden throughout the growing season. The garden teaches students the importance of taking care of public spaces and fosters neighborhood pride.

Daylilies and blue salvias bloom in
the Erie garden.
Daylilies and blue salvias bloom in the Erie garden.

“The Wayne School students have a great time and have a chance to learn about gardening and greening,” said Lynn McGuire-Olzak, WPC’s Community Gardens and Greenspace volunteer coordinator.

Men and women in Erie County’s Adult Probation Community Service Program spend community service hours tending to the garden in May. “They work so hard,” said Moyer. “It’s just amazing how much they put into the garden. And I think it helps them feel better too, because they know they are doing something good for the community and they see the results of their efforts. It makes them proud.”

The City of Erie’s Bureau of Parks and Recreation provides mulch on planting day each year. The Erie Community Foundation and Highmark provide the financial support to sustain the garden.

It is not uncommon for motorists who are waiting at the nearby traffic light to tell Moyer and Alexa how much they appreciate the garden. “I’ll never forget one man pulled up near the garden and said ‘You know, I drive by here every day and each time I drive by and look at that garden, I feel better,’” Moyer said.

Meadville student volunteers.
Meadville student volunteers.

Meadville Garden

The Conservancy’s community garden located at the traffic island where Park Avenue, French Creek Parkway and Route 322 converge provides a floral gateway to Meadville. “The garden is just a great place for people entering or leaving Meadville. It’s a nice welcome,” said Paula Rudler, one of three volunteer stewards of the Meadville garden.

The garden is configured with five circles containing yellow gazanias and cleome, a tall pink flower. A perennial grass fills in the garden. Those traveling north on Route 322 from the Conneaut Lake area can see the garden from the Smock Bridge about a quarter of a mile away.

Since 2005, Rudler, Bonnie Britlan and Barbara Bareckman, all Penn State University Master Gardeners, have managed the garden in a manner that has earned accolades. In 2010 it received a Community Greening Award from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Community residents send letters of appreciation to the volunteers for maintaining the garden. Often people will honk their car horn in appreciation as they drive by while the stewards are working on the garden.

Garden at the Route 322
triangle in Meadville.
Garden at the Route 322 triangle in Meadville.

The City of Meadville Parks Department provides lawn maintenance for the site. Approximately 40 additional Master Gardeners and community volunteers help weed and plant annually. Channellock, one of the original companies to support the flower garden, and Armstrong Group of Companies in Butler, Pa. provide financial support.

“We really had a spectacular year. Our plants all bloomed at the same time and the flowers maintained throughout the entire summer. It’s a pleasure to work on it. We thoroughly enjoy it,” Bareckman said.

When a gift is a legacy, 75 years are only the beginning

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