The City of Grinnell’s official logo is “Jewel of the Prairie”. The City of Grinnell supports the establishment of prairie gardens and natural prairie plantings within Grinnell through its grass and weed ordinance. Parks, school grounds, our Drake Library, residential yards, and corporate headquarters are a few places one can observe prairie in Grinnell.
A Master Parks Improvement Plan was completed by Dunbar/Jones, a landscape architecture firm based out of Des Moines, in August 2007. In the process of developing the plan, Dunbar/Jones sought and received significant input from the community about their desires for improvements to Grinnell’s park system. Landscaping with native plants and establishing prairie plantings in our parks were common requests. Dunbar/Jones incorporated prairie plantings in their designs for nearly all of Grinnell’s 9 parks; see Section 7 Park Plan.
Arbor Lake Park, located in southwest Grinnell, has several prairie plantings. One of the most visible and accessible prairie is the Hudson Memorial Prairie, located south of the dam. This prairie was originally seeded in the late 1980s or early 1990s and has been revitalized with additional seed and prescribed fire over the last five years. The Grinnell Youth Conservation Corps assists with invasive species control in this prairie during the summer.
Arbor Lake shoreline rehabilitation. Prairie and savanna species have also been introduced as plugs along the east and west shorelines of Arbor Lake after invasive shrubs (honeysuckles and buckthorn) have been removed. Many of these native herbaceous species can be observed flowering. Native shrubs have also been planted along the shoreline to provide plant diversity, soil erosion control, and wildlife habitat. The shrub species include buttonbush, ninebark, meadowsweet, false indigo, and elderberry.
Arbor Lake rain garden. A “Garden of Jewels” rain garden was established in the park in 2006 as part of the Arbor Lake Watershed Project. The garden was planted with plugs of native wet prairie species in 2006 and supplemented with additional plugs in 2007. Weeding and additional planting are needed to help revitalize this garden. Contact the Grinnell Parks and Recreation Department if you would like to help with this garden.
The Grinnell-Newburg Middle School planted “Tiger Pride Prairie”, a 4.3-acre prairie, located in the southeast corner of the school grounds, in 1980 and replanted in 1993. The prairie provides wildlife habitat, educational opportunities, and contains a diversity of native grasses and forbs including monarda, gray-headed coneflower, cup plant, rattlesnake master, spiderwort, and white wild indigo. The prairie is burned periodically. Fairview Elementary School was the recipient of a small prairie butterfly garden, designed and installed by Paige Greenley ’09 in 2008.
The butterfly garden at Fairview was about 120 square feet and was located around the back of the school next to the outdoor eating area. There were around 15 species in the garden including butterfly weed, wild columbine, purple coneflower, wild bergamot, blazing star, ironweed, black-eyed Susans, and wild rose.
Central Iowa Christian School, located at 201 380th Ave, at the west edge of Grinnell, planted a small prairie on their school grounds in the spring of 2008.
The fate of school gardens depends heavily on volunteers. If you can volunteer to help revive these plantings or tend new ones, please contact the schools and express your interest and enthusiasm.
The new Drake Community Library was completed in 2010, and landscaped with native wildflowers, grasses, trees, and shrubs, a wonderful tribute to the community’s tallgrass prairie heritage.
Several Grinnell residents are enjoying the beauty and biological diversity of prairie in their home landscaping. Prairie landscaping can be observed at 542 10th Ave, 1901 Summer St, 929 Elm St, and 9 College Park Rd.
ASI-Modulex Prairie. Prairie home of Rusty the Giraffe, and family. This prairie, located about 3 miles south of Hwy 6 in Grinnell on the east side of Hwy 146, is 2.5 acres. Owned by Tom and Dianne Latimer, the property was acquired in 1992, and the prairie was started the same year the sign factory was built in 1993. The owners have established a good stand of big blue stem, switchgrass and Indian grass along with 25 varieties of wild flowers. The prairie has been burned several times, with additional seed planted after many of the burns. There has been very little management of this prairie other than prescribed burning. The desire to introduce prairie grass and wildflowers into an industrial environment was decided with environmental, beautification and economic considerations in mind.