Riverside Reflection Garden Comes to Life

June 15, 2011

FVTC Horticulture Students, Volunteers Build Garden in a Day

The new “Riverside Reflection Garden,” adjacent to Riverside Medical Center (RMC), took shape and came to life Saturday, June 11.

Led by landscape architect Jim Beard, about a dozen Fox Valley Technical College horticulture students and more than 70 community volunteers transformed a 75-by-250-foot patch of land into a beautiful and serene garden overlooking the Crystal River.

The garden was built on top of the basement foundation of the old ThedaCare Physicians’ building, which now holds an underground stormwater runoff treatment facility.

“Gardening is my passion so I decided to join in,” said Patti Kile, MD, who was among the army of volunteers who turned out for a day of shoveling, digging, planting and brick laying. “It’s been a lot of fun with tremendous community support,” added Dr. Kile, a family physician with ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca.

“It’s been wonderful seeing everyone chip in and the amazing transformation that has happened in one day. It’s incredible.”

The new garden is a collaborative project between RMC, FVTC and the city of Waupaca. The project started out as a means to treat a couple of wayward acres of storm water, but quickly evolved into something more beautiful.

When RMC expanded in 2007-08, it spent more than $125,000 on new underground stormwater sediment control manholes, designed to catch and filter nearly all of the runoff from the site and surrounding city blocks. But due to the site’s topography, runoff from about two acres from the southwest corner of the hospital campus drained into the Crystal River. The city then designed and built an additional stormwater treatment system in the basement foundation to catch the remaining runoff.

“Once we put the stormwater facility in the basement and then backfilled it, we needed to decide what to do with the surface,” recalled John Edlebeck, Waupaca’s city engineer and public works director. “A committee was formed and decided a reflection garden for hospital patients, employees and neighbors would be the most beneficial use of the property.”

The hospital and city then turned to Beard, a FVTC horticulture instructor, and his students to dream up plans for the garden.

“The students have really stepped up and done an incredible amount of work,” said Beard. “Anyone who comes out and walks through the garden can see all the work done by the community. It’s really a wonderful expression about what Waupaca is really about.”

Concrete pathways, lined by wild flowers, trees and shrubs, wind through the garden and lead to brick patios and raised garden beds, with the scenic river as a backdrop.

Landscaper Shelly Christie, of Graziano Gardens in Waupaca, helped choose the flowers, plants and trees for the project.

“The plants are deer resistant and our goal was to have color from spring until frost,” said Christie. “We wanted it to fit with nature so we have a lot of ornamental grasses … and a couple anchor plants and trees.”

Craig Kantos, chief executive officer of RMC, said he was thrilled by the outpouring of community support and the end result.

“This is a fantastic project,” said Kantos, who spent much of the day hauling and spreading wheelbarrows full of dirt. “We’ve recycled the old foundation and it’s a very eco-friendly project.

“Families, patients and visitors will be able to come out and enjoy the garden, the seating areas and the river view.”