The grounds upon which Central Gardens is built had been the home of Clear Lake schools for 100 years—from 1888 to 1988. When Central School was to be replaced by a new building in a different site, and the old building was razed, much discussion ensued as to what would become of the property. Ultimately the City of Clear Lake became the owner, and the City determined that the south 2.75-acre section of the property would become a green space, and the north section would become housing.
In June 2000, a Steering Committee was officially appointed by the Parks and Recreation Board to begin the planning for the creation of that green space. In July 2000 nine Requests for Proposals were sent out. Every local and area nursery and landscape firm was contacted, ultimately none felt that it had the resources to meet the need. However, all were enthusiastic supporters and offered their help.
In August 2000, Dennis Buettner of Buettner and Associates, Inc., Fox Point, Wisconsin was selected as the Landscape Architect for the project. Country Landscapes of Ames, Iowa was given the nod as builder of the Gardens.
In 2002, Central Gardens of North Iowa was incorporated as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. The Steering Committee evolved into what is now the Board of Directors.
The Gardens is always a work in progress, and is really many gardens in one location. The original design calls for 22 different themed gardens. In 2006 the stunning Moon Gate at the north end of the property was installed, as was the waterfall feature. Next was the Nature Education Pavilion( NEP) which was built from 2008-09. It houses the Garden offices, and two meeting rooms, one of which also serves as the “bride’s” room during wedding rentals. The beautiful fountain feature at our main gate was built in 2009-10. In 2011, the Mother Earth Workshop (MEWS) which provides support for our many volunteers by housing tools, equipment, supplies, and even a greenhouse and is the location for the Fresh On Friday bouquet creations. And our last “hardscape” additions, the welcoming Gazebo and the donor wall, were both completed in 2015.
The existence of Central Gardens of North Iowa is a tribute to many visionary and civic-minded individuals and groups who saw the potential that a public gardens could offer north central Iowans. Little did they realize that the Gardens would become the destination for over 15,000 guests every year from nearly every state and many countries!