Community

Rockwell Collins supports outdoor and environmental initiatives with grants

Edible Forest project in Iowa City to get $1,100

The Wetherby Edible Forest at Wetherby Park in Iowa City on Wednesday, May. 9, 2018. The area has fruit trees and bushes, rhubarb, French sorrel, strawberries and herbs which can be harvested by neighbors for free. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The Wetherby Edible Forest at Wetherby Park in Iowa City on Wednesday, May. 9, 2018. The area has fruit trees and bushes, rhubarb, French sorrel, strawberries and herbs which can be harvested by neighbors for free. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Rockwell Collins plans to award $82,000 in Green Communities grants in 2018, with 29 of 50 funded projects located in Eastern Iowa.

One of those projects is the Edible Forest at Wetherby Park in Iowa City. Backyard Abundance, an Iowa City nonprofit, will receive $1,100 this spring from Rockwell to oversee and improve the Edible Forest, said Backyard Abundance co-director, Fred Meyer.

“We want to purchase more plants, hold more events, get some steppingstones for paths and buy gloves for volunteers,” Meyer said.

The Edible Forest, just west of the playground and splashpad at Wetherby Park, is a quiet space modeled after a forest with trees providing partial shade for currant and gooseberry bushes, Meyer said. Lower to the ground are stout bunches of rhubarb, wild strawberries and herbs, including oregano and thyme.

The forest uses no chemical fertilizers and visitors are invited to harvest crops at their convenience. Because of the late spring, the only plants ready to harvest now are French sorrel and rhubarb, Meyer said. But small white flowers among the leaves indicate wild strawberries may be available soon.

Visitors are invited to pull weeds, but some people don’t know how to distinguish weeds from plants, Meyer said. Backyard Abundance plans to offer some classes on weed recognition this summer.

In an April 19 news release, Rockwell Collins described the goal of the Edible Forest as “teaching disadvantaged citizens to grow and harvest environmentally-beneficial gardens.” This is because the forest is located near some economically-challenged neighborhoods without quick access to grocery stores, Meyer said.

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Rockwell has given out more than $1 million in Green Communities grants since 2004, the company said. To get funding, grants must involve participation by Rockwell employees or retirees, have tangible environmental benefits and be sustainable.

Other 2018 Eastern Iowa grant recipients:

Alburnett Community School District Foundation — Alburnett Community School’s Sustainable Green Space

Anamosa Parks and Recreation Department — Anamosa Arboretum

Benton County Conservation — Increased energy conservation, air quality, and water quality via replacement of ash trees

Bur Oak Land Trust — Habitat restoration for the endangered rusty-patched bumble bee, monarch butterflies and other native pollinators

City of Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department — Ellis Park Pollinator Prairie Establishment

City of Marion — Lowe Park biophilic enhancement

Delaware County Historical Society — Delaware County Historical Society Renewable Energy Project

Hawkeye Area Council, Boy Scouts of America — Monarch protection and habitat restoration by Boy Scouts at the Howard H. Cherry Scout Reservation

Horizons A Family Service Alliance — Irrigation repair for raised gardens

Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) — Project AWARE, a watershed awareness river expedition

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Jones County Historical Society — Edinburgh Pioneer Village Preservation and Environmental Benefit Project

Linn Area Mountain Bike Association — Sac and Fox Trail pollinator habitat access

Matthew 25 Ministry Hub — Urban Farm Stormwater Retention Plan

NewBo City Market — Composting and recycling awareness and education

Olivet Neighborhood Mission — Community Gardens

Nature Conservancy in Iowa — Restoring a wetland in Thomas Park for reduced flood risk and improved water quality

Salvation Army — Community garden

Trees Forever, Inc. — Trees Forever TreeKeepers

YMCA of the Cedar Rapids Metropolitan Area — YMCA Camp Wapsie Composting Program

Iowa DNR Maquoketa Wildlife Unit — Prescribed Fire Program enhancement

Marquette Catholic Schools — Marquette Elementary School lighting

City of Iowa City — Monarch rearing tent to increase monarch populations and community engagement

Iowa DNR — Lake Macbride Beach to Dam Trail repairs

Regina Catholic Education Center — Recycling improvement project

City of Mabel — Mabel Steam Engine Grounds canopy lighting

City of Decorah — Community tree planting for new dog park

Decorah Community School District — Dry Run Creek outdoor classroom

Winneshiek County Conservation Board — Pollinator trees at Rockwell Collins and Winneshiek County parklands

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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