COMSTOCK— In 1993 a fire destroyed an entire block in the small town of Comstock. In the wake of that destruction grew a garden that spans nearly two acres. The Comstock Community Garden began its birth in 1997 with the help of different members in the community. One of those members, Sherry Hilzer developed a garden plan. That plan began to take shape with the help of Sharon Krikac and Jo Wells. With time, hard work, and donations, the garden began to take shape and form what is seen today.
Over the years, donations such as a fountain, a bronze statue of a boy (dubbed the “young thinker”), several memorial benches, as well as other artistic pieces have helped give the garden a unique look. Alongside the donation pieces is a path of over 200 red bricks that are laid from the entrance of the garden, to the steps of the gazebo. The bricks are dedicated to those who have donated to the garden to help with expenses.
“A lot of people over the years have donated things to the garden like the benches that have plaques on them to commemorate loved ones. Some of the bricks in the front walkway were also donated to loved ones,” said garden manager Pam Chambers.
The garden has had to go through some renovations with the repair of the bridge as well as the gazebo. The gazebo was beginning to fall apart and the roof was beginning to rot. With only a small amount of money, but a lot of work to be done, Pam and her husband began repairing, painting, and staining the bridge and gazebo.
The roof, which cost nearly $1,400 to repair and the expenses to help with the bridge, were lessened thanks to a $600 grant by the Custer County Foundation. The rest of the money was donated by a local man which helped finish off the projects. To help with expenses, Custer County Tourism donates money every year to help pay for the water used in the garden.
The garden has won various awards over the years including: Keep Nebraska Beautiful, Nebraska State Arboretum, Daughters of the American Revolution, Beautification of Nebraska, and the NSA Greenspace Stewardship. They have also been featured in the Grand Island Daily Independent, Nebraska Life, and Backyard Living. The Comstock Community Garden was also featured in 2008 and in 2010 on NTV’s “the Road Less Traveled” program which airs weekly.
The garden is planted and replanted throughout the year to replace flowers that bloom at certain times of the year. The plants that begin to die and spread their seeds are cut and harvested for the seeds. Pam bags these seeds and gives them out all year long to tourists and especially children.
“I want children to get interested in the garden,” says Pam. “I have a personal feeling most children now-a-days are nature deprived and if they could walk through a garden like this and notice the butterflies, the bees, and the life that is taking place they would appreciate the world they live in.”
One of the awards that the garden is most proud of is to be a part of the Green Space Stewardship Project. By planting a majority of plants that are native to Nebraska, as well as promoting Nebraska, and also not using poisons or pesticides, allows the garden to be completely natural. Allowing the garden to grow naturally also provides resources to help increase the worlds butterfly population, as well as pollinators such as bumblebees and honeybees.
“We are always involved in the pollinator project. We were able to get 33 other communities to start butterfly gardens to save the butterflies that pollinate our food.”
Tours are available by calling Pam Chambers at (308) 628-4100. As the flower season begins to draw to a close, make sure to have plans to visit the Comstock Community Garden next year.