Wayland Main Street plans for dahlia garden

By: 
Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

Reviving Wayland as The Dahlia City with a dahlia demonstration garden at North Park is a project Wayland Main Street’s Economic Restructuring Committee is proposing for a new public attraction.

“It’s sort of the missing piece of the puzzle to get people to come to Wayland,” said committee volunteer Vicki Gless. “It’s a nod to our past when we were known all over the world as Dahlia City.”

Gless gave a presentation on plans for a demonstration garden and said the committee is working with the West Michigan Dahlia Society and inviting other societies specializing in hosta, iris and day lilies to provide blooms all season in hopes of making Wayland a garden enthusiast destination.

“Gardening is the number one pastime in the United States and the World,” said Gless. “When the park comes to fruition it would be absolutely lovely attracting photographers, artists, flower growers and bus groups.”

Gless said while the flowers would be maintained by garden groups, Main Street is asking the city to maintain mowing, schedules for events such as tours and weddings and enforcing ordinances. The cost would be $10,000 to start up 37 raised beds with 500 to 600 varieties. The completion cost is $59,000 to add sprinkling systems and fencing. Gless asked the city council for permission to move forward.

City manager Joshua Eggleston said the project was not in the city’s 2019 fiscal budget up for adoption on June 18. He cautioned taking on the perpetual cost of water, sewer and taking the property off the tax records since it is currently in trust from a private landowner. Parking would also be an issue and the city would have to provide a bathroom, he said.

“Maybe after this budget is approved, we could look at it for the 2020 fiscal year, but we don’t want to overcommit when we have an underfunded capital improvement plan already,” Eggleston said.

Gless said the West Michigan Dahlia Society and Main Street have ideas for a long range plan to create endowment, sponsorships, grants and other resources.

“We know there’s a lot to do,” Gless said.

The closest place for the Dahlia society to hybridize the flowers is in Elkhart, Ind.; therefore, the society is enthusiastically on board.

“It just fits,” Gless said. “It was a serendipitous moment when we approached them for help and they were looking for a small town to build a garden.”

The society participates in national and midwest shows and hosts the Dahlia show at Frederick Meijer Gardens in August when the flower is in bloom. Tour buses could bring more tax revenue said Gless, giving a multiplier of a 1.31 return on the dollar.

As a representative of youth sports, council member Tim Rose said a lot of real estate for sports fields is getting smaller and smaller.

“If we take that park away that’s where rocket football practices,” he said.

Gless said that is not an issue now with the gardens proposed on the south end of the park.

Mayor pro-tem Jennifer Antel said she loved the idea in concept but not so much the $59,000.

“If there is interest, we need to figure out a way to move the project forward,” she said. “There is other land in the city like the St. Therese property community garden.  We need to look at all options for the  best economic long-term decision.”

The council will ask the parks committee to study options. North Park is at the corner of Main and Dahlia streets across from the Michigan State Police Post.

In the meantime, Main Street is moving forward with plans for a dahlia mural to be painted in time for the downtown summer party July 20-21, which will be celebrating Wayland’s 150th anniversary.

Painting on the mural will begin around July 1 and be painted by a professional artist who is a Wayland native. It will cover half of the Wayland Hotel at the main four-corners of downtown at Main and Superior streets. The north wall and rear wall in the alley will be covered in dahlias and Sherwin Williams is providing free paint.

“It will be traffic calming and make the alley more inviting and walkable,” Gless said. “Main Street is also working on a parklet—a movable wood deck installed on a parking lane where people can gather.”

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