ROCK ISLAND, Illinois -- The Friends of Hauberg Civic Center foundation is spearheading a project to restore a historic terrace garden on the estate. But first, the group has to clear more than 70 years of overgrowth from the grounds.
Designed by the renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen more than 100 years ago, the grand terrace garden fell into disuse and sprouted into a forest.
"His design was to make it prairie, so everything was to grow in a natural state," said Deb Kuntzi, the executive director of the Friends of Hauberg Civic Center Foundation. "But at some point, everything just gets overgrown."
In its heyday from 1910 to 1942, the garden provided tons of food for area families. Over the last several months, an ecologist has been making room for crops and other flora by clearing out the trees.
"As these trees come down and we begin to plant the flat parts of the terrace, the sloping aspects of the terrace will be planted with indigenous native wild flowering grass mixes," said restoration ecologist Rob Liva. "That will provide essential habitat that’s largely missing in today’s composition of the bluffs."
So far, about a third of the original terrace garden has been cleared of trees. Teaming up with a local youth gardening program, Sprouting Minds, the Hauberg Civic Center will begin planting peppers, tomatoes and other crops as early as this Spring.
"I have the winter mind right now," said Sprouting Mind's Nieko Summers. "That’s what our farmers call it, where it’s just planning and planning and planning. And then it’s like, when do I actually get to start doing this?"
Sprouting Minds will guide young students from a nearby elementary school through the process of planting and harvesting. The food they grow will go to their own cafeteria, with anything extra being provided to local homeless shelters and food pantries.
Kuntzi said that she and four others have written a proposal for a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help fund the project. In a matter of months, she says she will know whether the funds have been awarded to the Hauberg Civic Center.
"Whether we get that or not, it's still moving forward," she said. "It's going to feed so many people, and the thing is, it will become a destination."