The air and clouds were heavy with humidity as more than 50 local volunteers descended upon the swampy waterfront of the wetlands in Mead Botanical Garden on June 23.
Armed with gloves, hats, buckets and bug spray, volunteers from Full Sail University and Summit Church — coordinated by leaders from Keep Winter Park Beautiful — got to work at clearing out 15 feet of pathway around where water flows into the wetlands to make a walkable path.
“We’re working to restore it to its natural integrity,” said Tim Maslow, executive director for Keep Winter Park Beautiful (KWPB). “We want to make [Mead Garden] an asset for the community, a destination.”
Cindy Hasenau, a Mead representative, said this is just a kick-off for big-time renovations coming to the wetlands in the garden. The garden was recently awarded a $40,000 grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to put toward water quality improvements in the wetlands and Lake Lillian, which once fell into disarray as a dumping ground.
This was the third trip out for volunteers from Summit Church, working hard on restoring both areas around the wetlands and the community garden. Green-shirted volunteers followed a pamphlet provided by KWPB to show them which invasive species to remove and which native plants could stay, as they weeded through the dreary late morning.
“We like doing this for our family because the kids can get involved,” Summit Group Leader Rich Spence said, watching his son and daughter pick through the overgrowth as other young church members wheeled a wheelbarrow full of weeds from site to site.
“This is a great project because you get to see a result from start to finish,” his wife, Tammy Spence, said. By 11 a.m., after three hours of dozens of volunteers working on their hands and knees, the area surrounding the community garden was weed-free.
Mead Botanical Garden is located at 1500 S. Denning Drive, visit meadgarden.org for more information. To learn more about new and upcoming Keep Winter Park Beautiful initiatives, visit kwpb.org
Meanwhile volunteers from Full Sail University’s Pure Motivation community development organization took on the overgrown area bordering the wetlands. From the soft, sinking mud by the end of the day, the students had pulled out a pile of brush taller than some of the volunteers themselves.
Stacey O’Mara, the staff sponsor for Pure Motivation, said her organization found out about the need at Mead from Tim Maslow and KWPB.
“Our hope is that we will inspire students to stay involved in their community,” she said. “We like to get involved in things right in our own backyard.”
Maslow has high hopes for the future of the garden as restoration efforts continue.
“The city and Mead are working together,” he said, “we all want to see the garden restored to its natural beauty.”