Bob Jackson of Janesville working to restore lost rest area

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Shelly Birkelo
Sunday, August 3, 2014

JANESVILLE—Bob Jackson's four-year volunteer effort started with a chance encounter.

He discovered a spot that once was a rest area while walking on the Ice Age Trail between Palmer and Delavan drives. Something caught his eye along Spring Brook Creek.

After wading through shoulder-high brush, he found a wooden bench overgrown with mildew and covered by graffiti. He discovered carved letters and numbers that revealed the bench was part of a 1991 Wisconsin Conservation Corp project.

He notified Tom Presny, who at the time was Janesville parks director.

“I removed the black, thick coating of moss and graffiti, sanded and cleaned it and am planning to restain it its original municipal green,” Jackson said.

He said the project fills a void left by the death of his wife, Joyce.

“I started working on it off and on four years ago but more intensely the past two years since she died,” Jackson said.

“It gives me something to do,” he said.

Jackson has sawed, raked and troweled. He has cut brush, dug tree roots and removed dead branches. He has mowed grass and planted hundreds of daffodil bulbs.

“There was massive overgrowth,” he said.

“I'm restoring it for the people to use.”

His plans include installing a ramp and maybe railroad tie stairs so those with baby strollers and the elderly can walk into the area and enjoy it.

Another 300 hundred daffodil bulbs have been ordered and a wastebasket will be bolted to the wooden bench.

“I want to make a sea of daffodils,” he said, pointing to an area outside of the mowed grass.

Jackson estimates it will take him another year to finish the project he describes as a rest area for quiet contemplation.

“I'm in no hurry, enjoy seeing and feel proud of what I've done. I think it's delightful,” he said.

The 74-year-old retired downtown Janesville business owner is no stranger to volunteerism.

As an informal member of the Janesville Downtown Development Alliance, he designed, printed and raised money to hang spring banners downtown.

He carries a pail on his 2.5-mile daily walk and to collect trash.

Jackson also does all the volunteer gardening at the main theater entrance of the Janesville Performing Arts Center that also houses the Marshall Apartments where he lives.

This includes all of the spring and summer cleaning, weeding and planting plus removing dead bushes.

“If I don't do it, who is?” he said.

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