Community

Green canvas: Nonprofit helping Iowa City park neighbors design community gardens

Three park gardens to be tailored-made to community members' wants

Backyard Abundance

The Edible Classroom at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center in Iowa City. Backyard Abundance, which helped design the space, is now working with the community to develop three more gardens.
Backyard Abundance The Edible Classroom at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center in Iowa City. Backyard Abundance, which helped design the space, is now working with the community to develop three more gardens.
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IOWA CITY — An area nonprofit is helping residents design their own community spaces in a few local Iowa City parks.

Backyard Abundance is working with community members during open meetings to gather input and help design what they would want in community gardens at Walden Green Park, Creekside Park and Chadek Green Park. Fred Meyer, co-director, founded the organization in Iowa City in 2006 with the hopes of creating environmentally-friendly landscaping.

“Most environmental efforts focus on landscapes that are far away,” Meyer said, adding that often people are concerned with saving areas like rain forests. “I learned the most just by doing things in my own yard,”

Meyer said he began learning about local landscapes after installing things such as a water feature in his own backyard and, as a result, he’d learn how water moved across landscapes.

Since then, Backyard Abundance has grown into an organization that creates resilient and sustainable landscapes or parks. The three city park areas are not the first time Backyard Abundance has worked with the city. Previously, they developed two gardens, the Edible Classroom and the Children’s Discovery Garden, around the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center.

Theresa Carbrey, events coordinator, said the organization tries to make landscapes more diverse than just grass and trees, which can be boring for humans and unsupportive to wildlife.

“We want landscapes that sustain themselves,” Carbrey said. “You need to get your beds established and then hopefully they will not need a lot of watering or the use of chemicals because they’ll be hearty, sustainable, sometimes native species.”

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Neighbors and Backyard Abundance are still in the planning process of what will be in each of the gardens. Carbrey said she hopes Backyard Abundance will have plans submitted to city by around mid-May.

“We’re trying to make these gardens assets to the parks,” Meyer said.

The next meetings for each park are all at 6:30 p.m. On Tuesday, Backyard Abundance will hold a vision and design community meeting for Creekside Park in the rec center at 220 S. Gilbert, Room A.

Walden Park’s vision and design meeting is scheduled Wednesday at Walden Place Senior Living, 2423 Walden Rd. Chadek Green Park’s gatherings won’t being until May 22.

“This is a chance for people who live in these areas to share what they really want,” Carbrey said. “It can make for a really lively and engaging and sometimes whimsical parks that are really fun and everyone enjoys being there.”

A complete list of community meetings can be found at backyardabundance.org/commgardens.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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