Janesville78.8°

Rotary Gardens needs rescuing

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Mike DuPre'
July 13, 2008
— Parts of Rotary Gardens are drowning, and Gardens folks are looking for financial life preservers.

“We’re estimating a minimum $10,000 damage, and that’s before Thursday night’s rain,” said Gary Smith, who is volunteering as Rotary Gardens’ interim executive director.


“I wouldn’t be surprised if that doubles, and it’s not budgeted,” Smith said. “We (typically) run below the bone on the budget. This is going to hurt.


“It’s really going to hurt.”


The flood damaging Rotary Garden is not overflow from the Rock River, but over-saturation from heavy rains that have soaked southern Wisconsin this spring and summer.


Even when Janesville is dry, the Rotary Gardens area is wet because the gardens are nestled next to spring-fed ponds. The small pond behind the gardens is connected to the large pond that Lions Beach sits on.


Nearby is the separate spring-fed Kiwanis Pond, and draining into the ponds and gardens is Blackhawk Golf Course, said Larry Olsen, Rotary Gardens landscape manager.


Because the ground is saturated, more water is flowing from the springs feeding the ponds. The ponds are overflowing—about 40 inches over normal depth—drainage areas are filled, and there’s no dry ground to absorb the excess water, Olsen explained.


And another 4.5 inches of rain fell on the gardens Thursday and Friday, Olsen reported.


“We’re always looking for donations, just for the ongoing maintenance of the gardens,” Smith said. “There are no tax dollars supporting us. …


“We’re looking for any and all the help we can get. We always need volunteer help, but right now we need money,” he said.


The nature that Rotary Gardens celebrates has dealt the international botanical gardens a blow that will take years to assess and thousands of dollars to repair, Smith and Olsen said.


Water has turned much of the white gravel in the gardens’ walks and what was the dry sea in the Japanese garden a rusty orange. The gravel will have to be replaced, Olsen said.


Rotary Gardens has had to move weddings from preferred locations—such as the French, sunken and gazebo gardens—to other locations on the grounds because of standing water or ground so sodden that chairs sink into it, Smith said.


So far, no weddings have had to move entirely from Rotary Gardens.


Trees are drowning because their roots have been under water for days, but it will take years for them to die, Olsen said.


The zigzag bridge in the Japanese garden is submerged. Both ends of the arched bridge in the Japanese garden are under water.


“We may have to replace the (arched) bridge,” Smith said. “A lot of the plants where we’ve had floods have been under water for nine weeks. They’re not going to come out of it.


“They’re shot.”


Standing water destroys lawns in a matter of days, Olsen said.


“We’re going to have to do a lot of reseeding. It’s going to be a month before some of these areas dry out, and that’s without any more heavy rain,” he said as he eyed low, heavy, gray clouds Saturday morning.


He estimated that a half-acre of the gardens’ 15 acres is submerged.


“You have something in the gardens that’s taken five or six years to grow,” Olsen said. “You can’t really replace it.


“It will take another five or six years to grow.”



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