Natural colors will welcome visitors who traverse along the Wisconsin side of the St. Croix Crossing Loop Trail, thanks to Wisconsin Garden Club Federation President Peggy Grubbs.
After learning about the Loop Trail a year ago, Grubbs selected the trail as the garden federation's annual president's project. As a New Richmond native, Grubbs was thrilled to see the focus of the group on this corner of the state.
"This is a perfect opportunity to bring those dollars and projects to St. Croix County and Western Wisconsin," Grubbs said.
To add to what the trail already provides, Grubbs and the garden club has been working with St. Croix County's Ellen Denzer and Tamara Wittmer on the project.
"We were just thrilled that someone was coming to us and asking us to help and participate and expand that awareness," Denzer said, "and give us an opportunity to do more than just have stormwater ponds."
The project will include gardens at two different sites - the trailhead that will be located across from Houlton Elementary and a parking lot that will be at the top of the hill near the St. Croix Crossing bridge.
At the trailhead, the club will plant a rain and pollinator garden, and it will also create a veterans memorial garden at the site. An additional rain garden will be at the hill parking lot.
Grubbs' own personal connection inspired the addition of the veterans memorial. One of her fellow garden club members served in the military for more than 20 years and her son-in-law is currently serving.
"Seeing first-hand the impact on the families and the sacrifice that the veterans make, it made it a no-brainer for me," Grubbs said.
At the trailhead, the garden will have a veterans marker to honor those who have served.
"This is going to be a highly visible space, lots and lots of users, Grubbs said. "We thought that having the memorial marker would be significant and that perhaps people can be reflective of that freedom isn't free."
The other types of gardens were selected to be both attractive and useful. The rain gardens will filter water before it goes into the ground, providing a natural filter. The pollinator gardens will provide food for bees and butterflies, especially the monarchs that are struggling.
All of the gardens will feature plants native to the area, something Denzer said is required by the visual quality manual of the St. Croix Crossing project. Each plant will be labeled by a marker so visitors can identify the plants they see.
Currently the cost of the garden project is expected to be about $10,000, and the club is collecting funds now.
"We're big proponents of if you can dream it, you can fund it," Grubbs said.
The gardens are designed to add to the already developed Loop Trail project.
"It's going to add functionality, beauty," Grubbs said.
The gardening project is just one of the unique aspects of the trail plan. Denzer said the trail will also feature instructional panels and an art bench site by Houlton Elementary students.
"This trail is not just a place to bicycle through. It's going to be a location for people to walk and learn and experience," Denzer said.
Though the St. Croix Crossing bridge opened in August, the Loop Trail will be opening in 2018. The garden projects will follow, with the trailhead gardens completed by fall of 2018, and the garden at the top of the hill set to be done in 2019 after the hill is graded down.
When it comes time to plant, the garden club members will be the ones getting their hands in the dirt. Grubbs said they're always looking for volunteers, whether they have green thumbs or not. Anyone interested in supporting or donating to the project can contact Grubbs at email@example.com.
"If we can leave the earth a little bit better, that's great," Grubbs said.