Raising $700,000 to build a botanical garden at the corner of Wintergarden Road and Conneaut Avenue
seemed an ambitious venture when the Simpson Garden Park campaign began three years ago. Some even felt
it may have been too ambitious.
Sunday Dick Edwards, co-chair of the steering committee that led the effort, announced donations and
commitments had reached $710,000.
After nearly two years of planning, which included meetings with groups of community members to get their
ideas and suggestions about the proposed 11-acre park, the campaign was quietly launched in the fall of
2005. It was publicly announced on June 10, 2006 with $362,000 pledged.
Margaret Tucker, then president of the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Foundation Board, recalled she
thought the proposed campaign was "doable. I knew it would not be easy but I had great confidence
in this city’s citizens. Bowling Green believes in its parks. Parks levies have always been supported
and the Simpson Garden Park is something that few cities have. It is entirely different than a park with
ball fields and other recreational activity."
"We were able to convey our vision of the Simpson Garden Park to the city’s residents. When we
started this campaign, few people had heard of the Simpson Garden Park, now there are very few who do
not know about it," Tucker said.
The Simpson Garden Park includes several kaleidoscope-colored gardens that are designed to enchant as
well as educate visitors and which are meticulously cared for by a dedicated group of garden volunteers.
Two of the primary gardens-the Children’s and Sensory Gardens-have been completed and two others will
start this summer. In all, there will be about nine different gardens plus several smaller ones.
Nadine Edwards, who is co-chair of the steering committee with her husband, noted that the "spirit
of volunteerism in Bowling Green, which we see in so many areas of this city, is wonderful."
She added "the grooming of the gardens is directly attributable to the hard work of a corps of
Master Gardeners and garden volunteers, who have devoted countless hours to creating and maintaining the
gardens under the direction of part-time horticulturalist Dan Parratt and Parks and Recreation
Department Naturalist Chris Gajewicz."
While most of the campaign money is going to construct the gardens, about 40 percent of the funds have
been put into an endowment, which will be used to maintain and care for the gardens.
Jim Lessig, who chaired the initial foundation planning committee, noted that an endowment is a key
component to the long-term existence of gardens, like the Simpson Garden Park. "If it costs $50,000
to build a garden, then almost that much will be needed to maintain it."
The garden park’s origins began with the past Parks and Recreation Director Bob Callecod, who was largely
responsible for the park’s offices moving into the former Church of the Nazarene in the fall of 2003. It
is now called the Simpson Building and honors the late Newton and Violet Simpson, longtime Bowling Green
residents. When Mrs. Simpson died in 1998, she bequeathed more than $300,000 in her estate to the Parks
and Recreation Department.
Adjacent to the Simpson Building property was eight acres of city-owned land and Callecod envisioned
transforming the area into a garden park. He presented his ideas to the Parks and Recreation Foundation
Board, which bought into his vision.
Edwards said he and the steering committee encountered a "genuine enthusiasm for a garden park in
Bowling Green. The success of the Simpson Garden Park campaign is a remarkable community achievement,
especially for a city this size and considering the difficult economy we all face."
Ruth and Wes Hoffman served as honorary chairpersons.
Steve McEwen, who became an active volunteer early in the campaign, saw the Simpson Garden Park drive as
"a way for our generation to leave something of value for future generations."
He pointed to the City Park as an example. "This beautiful park was created many years ago for our
enjoyment; we didn’t create it but we all benefit from it," he said. The Simpson Garden is a
worthwhile project that is adding a great deal of value to Bowling Green, he said.
Many memorial gifts dorn garden
Many of the Simpson Garden Park features, including waterfalls, gates, benches, gardens, trees and
sculptures, were donated as memorial gifts to honor a family member or friend.
And there are still opportunities to make memorial donations as the Simpson Garden continues to grow.
Memorials are designated with special markers and plaques throughout the gardens.
"It’s a special way to remember a loved one and we hope that more and more citizens will see the
Simpson Garden Park as a special place and setting for a memorial," said Nadine Edwards, co-chair
of the campaign steering committee.
People wanting to know more about memorial opportunities can call Rachel Blickensderfer at (419)