City and Project GREEN receive REAP grant for Ashton House gardens
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has announced that the City of Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department and Project GREEN have been awarded a $154,079 Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) grant for the redevelopment and restoration of landscaping and gardens at the Ned Ashton House, 820 Park Road. The limestone house and grounds, which were named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001, sit adjacent to the Iowa River and were considerably damaged by the floods of 2008.
After the City purchased the Ashton House in 2011 to restore for use as a special events facility, Project GREEN, a local nonprofit that invests in public landscaping and promotes environmental awareness, volunteered to work with the City to rebuild the grounds and gardens. The group agreed to design a new landscaping plan, plant gardens that incorporate many of the plants that survived the flood, and work with Parks staff to provide ongoing garden maintenance for what are now called, “The Project GREEN Gardens.”
“We are very excited that these REAP funds will enable us to make significant improvements at this beautiful site, which the public can identify with Project GREEN,” said Cindy Parsons, co-president of the organization.
The landscape plan, which will be implemented in several phases over a 10-year period, focuses on the historical aspects of the Ashton House. The site is expected to become a destination for residents, visitors, and garden enthusiasts who come to enjoy the beauty and allure of the gardens against the backdrop of the scenic Iowa River. In the past year, the newly renovated Ashton House has become a popular venue for weddings, receptions, parties, reunions, and meetings.
The REAP grant will be usedfor numerous components of the garden plan, including: reconstruction of the historic west terrace; construction of a pergola and associated pavement; repair and reforestation of the flood plain forest to stabilize soils and manage stormwater; development of a botanical garden with flood- and deer-tolerant plants; construction of a rain garden to enhance stormwater management; interpretive signage and plant markers for public education on historic, existing, and new plants; and construction of a compost bin for ongoing garden maintenance.
The City of Iowa City has benefitted from a 47-year partnership with Project GREEN, which has funded nearly $2 million in public beautification projects in Iowa City and Johnson County, including a $75,000 gift in 2012 for plantings near the Lodge at the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area. Through the years, the all-volunteer organization has donated time and effort on beautification and landscaping projects for City parks and other area public properties, medians, roadsides, riverfronts, and public school grounds. Project GREEN will celebrate 50 years of service to the community in 2018.
The state’s REAP program invests in projects that enhance and protect Iowa’s natural and cultural resources. In this round of funding, nearly $2.4 million in grants were awarded to 24 cities across Iowa. In the program’s 26 years, 15,000 projects, totaling $230 million in state investments, have been undertaken to improve soil and water quality, add outdoor recreation opportunities, sustain economic development, enhance knowledge and understanding of ecological and environmental assets, and preserve the state’s cultural and historic treasures.