They say that it takes a village. But in the case of Richmond Education Gardens and Apiary—a joint initiative between the villages of Westmont and Clarendon Hills that started two years ago—it took a little bit more. Namely, the dedication of one local Eagle Scout to get the job done.
As the story goes, an elderly beekeeper (who happens to be a retired Clarendon Hills Police Chief) spearheaded the garden project three years ago in a desire to educate future generations about the importance of bees for our environment. From there, teachers from local schools got involved, including Hinsdale Central High School AP Environmental Science teacher Mr. Wollschlaeger, working with village officials to create a mission statement for what the garden and education center could mean for the community. By Earth Day 2017, teachers, students, and citizens from both communities came together for a ground-breaking ceremony.
However, two years passed and the project remained unfinished. Momentum had dwindled, and it just sat there.
While working toward his Eagle Scout rank, Hinsdale Central High School Junior Luke Leddy discovered the forgotten project and immediately began working to renew interest in bringing this community treasure to life.
According to his parents, Judy and Tracy Leddy, Luke has spent more than 50 hours on planning, designing, consulting with area Scout leaders, and
securing nearly $2,000 in donations from the villages of Westmont and Clarendon Hills, Midwest Groundcovers, Midwest Trading, and Tameling’s Landscape Supply to finish the project.
Visions for the garden include a hobbyist apiary surrounded by native vegetable, wildflower, butterfly, wall, and rain garden. Each of the elements is meant to include a plaque with basic information and supporting website references describing these elements’ purpose and other relative educational information.
The founding values for this ambitious endeavor include access to resources, community ownership of process and product, localization, empowerment and collaboration, healthy eating, and organic and environmentally sound gardening practices. These core values will all be taught through honeybee stewardship, demonstrating garden soil preparation, using local seeds and transplants, as well as cultivating and growing native vegetables, wildflowers, and plants at home and throughout the community.
Leddy, along with dozens of high school and middle school student volunteers, worked eight hours per day for two days straight to build the “rain garden” portion of the project. Filled with native plants and flowers to help filter pollutants carried in storm water runoff and help with flooding protection, this part of the garden ensures that rain water is available to plants and bees for years to come (instead of being sent through storm drains).
“After two years of delays, the garden came to life again on Earth Day 2019, thanks to Luke’s efforts,” says Judy. “And it all came full circle with this happening at the same time of year, in celebration of Earth Day.”
The long-term plan for the Richmond Education Gardens and Apiary is to serve kids from preschool to high school in surrounding communities—driving student interest in environmental sciences and sustainability.
For more information or to donate to the cause, visit richmondgardens.org.