Using its 2017 Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s Community Partners Grant as a catalyst, Keep Akron Beautiful (KAB) helped to recently revitalize the Elaine Evans Memorial Children’s Garden after a long history of neglect.
Formerly known as the Children’s Garden, the site was originated in 1997 by Let’s Grow Akron (LGA) founder Elaine Evans, with the help of KAB which cleared a large dumpsite to make room for the installation of a man-made stream, a canal boat replica, an arbor and flowerbeds. Twenty years later, KAB returned to the site after it had fallen into disrepair.
Located on an isolated road with no visibility from the surrounding streets, the Children’s Garden site was an “invitation” to illegal dumping and drug activity. As such, KAB and the City of Akron both received constant complaints. KAB litter crews frequently removed dumped material and drug paraphernalia from the area.
The revitalization work began in August, as the City repaired roads and installed lighting. Advanced Arboriculture spent days removing site hazards by trimming trees and clearing overgrown brush, weeds and trees.Next, KGK Gardening and Design donated crew and equipment to excavate the stream and create an easier-to-maintain space.
Keep Akron Beautiful welcomed volunteers during First Congregational Church of Hudson’s First Serve event on Sept. 10. Hudson, Ohio, high school students stained the arbor and continued clearing brush. First Serve volunteers donated a project dumpster and 300 daffodil bulbs.
On Sept. 14, OEC volunteers joined KAB and LGA as part of their Community Connections Day, in collaboration with the BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence. All worked on improving old flowerbeds and removing fencing. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company volunteers, under the leadership of KAB Board Member Chastity Duskey, worked on new bed installation, including bed edging with repurposed stream rocks. They also stained four picnic tables donated by Lowe’s. Crew members from Advanced Arboriculture then returned to install fencing.
And, on Oct. 3, Lowe’s Heroes volunteers from the Fairlawn store, under the leadership of Store Manager Gary Sutor, began to rebuild the boat replica. Lowe’s also planted pollinator gardens, with help from KAB Flowerscape Director Leah Heiser.
LGA staff and volunteers worked alongside KAB staff and volunteers throughout the project. KAB ensured the plant selection and park changes stayed true to both Elaine Evans’ vision and LGA goals, by working closely with LGA Executive Director Lisa Nunn.
This project helped restore pride in Akron’s Summit Lake, inviting newcomers for a fresh perspective of the area.