Volunteers keep Tonganoxie’s Magnatech Park going and growing
It’s a pleasant morning in the shade.
Local residents — three women — survey a local flower garden. In between tugs on pesky weeds they chat about future plans for the garden, such as what flowers and plants should stay and which ones should get the heave ho come fall.
They stop to chat about family or flowers, but the work remains steady.
It’s a typical Thursday morning for local Master Gardeners Susan Quisenberry, Alice DeMoss and Angie Andrews at Magnatech Park in Tonganoxie. Another Master Gardener, Liz Messinger, usually is there as well.
Established or aspiring green thumbs might have interest in the annual K-State Research and Extension Horticulture Center's Field Day.
• It runs 8 a.m.-3 p.m. July 26 at the center, 35230 W. 135th St., Olathe. It's about 9 miles west of Kansas Highway 7 on 135th Street.
• Cost is $5 and includes tours of flower and vegetable fields. Free soil tests will be administered and professors and Master Gardener volunteers will be on hand to answer questions.
• For more information, call 913-715-7000 or visit johnson.ksu.edu.
But last Thursday, with some help from Susan’s grandson Anthony Quisenberry, the three women spent the morning gardening throughout the park.
The group generally meets at 8 a.m. Thursdays at the park near County Road 5 and Pleasant Street. With Independence Day on Friday, they likely won’t meet this week, but when weather permits the small group gathers to pick weeds and make other improvements to Magnatech Park, which was created about 14 years ago.
A new park
The flower garden started when the Graveman family turned land they owned along County Road 5 over to the city with the stipulation that a flower garden be created there.
The family reached out to Quisenberry, who had finished Master Gardener training the year before, about transforming the landscape into a flower garden.
The local Masonic Lodge built the gazebo, while other Master Gardener volunteers planted trees, plants and flowers and Magnatech Park, named after the Gravemans’ business, was a reality.
Though the landscape of the area has changed a bit through the years, some things remain constant.
The late Jean Lenahan donated a hibiscus plant that continues to bloom. Greenery planted when the park first got started still is flourishing.
Amenities have been added through the years.
Peruvian Connection donated supplies for a storage shed that Jim McCaffrey built several years ago.
DeMoss said the shed was a great addition, as volunteers previously had to lug their own hoses and tools to and from the park.
Additional flowers and other plants now greet joggers, walkers and cyclists along both sides of a short stretch of Chieftain Trail. Those flower beds are to the east of the main park area.
Benches also were installed a few years ago at the park’s entrance, but the biggest addition came in the form of a wooden fence.
City crews installed the border and resurfaced the asphalt parking lot in front of the park earlier this summer in time for the Chieftain Trail Phase II ribbon cutting. The trail extension started near the park.
Quisenberry said the fence tied the park together and gave it the look of a legitimate entrance.
Magnatech Park offers a wide range of color, thanks to the variety the volunteers have planted. Roses, lilies, zinnias, liatris, coneflowers, amsonia, poppies and irises are a few.
Though volunteers receive donations to help with the garden’s upkeep, they also have a plant sale each spring. The plants and flowers actually are ones that have grown at Magnatech Park.
“We’ll bring things from our own gardens, too,” Andrews said.
The sale generally takes place in the spring at the park.
The Master Gardeners have gotten a boost each spring, thanks to Tonganoxie High School students. Youths have helped with weeding and other duties during the annual Community Service Day.
“We bring them cookies and lemonade, so we make it worth their while,” Quisenberry said.
The volunteers said the students’ work is a big help each year, but they would welcome others to join them on Thursday mornings for whatever time they can spare.
The women generally work three or four hours on the gardens.
They also encouraged local residents to take Master Gardener courses. The weekly training runs September through November in Lansing. The course is offered through Leavenworth County K-State Research and Extension.
When people have completed the course, they are required to contribute 40 hours of Master Gardener projects during the first year.
Applications will be taken next month for review. Course fee is $100 and includes the Master Gardener Handbook. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit facebook.com/leavenworthmastergardeners or call the extension office at 913-364-5700 for more information.
Quisenberry and DeMoss took the course together in 1999, while Andrews enrolled a few years later.
They agreed the work is therapeutic and it’s truly something they enjoy.
The group also welcomes help from Quisenberry’s grandson. Anthony is 7 and said he stays busy when not helping out at the park.
“I have 100 hobbies,” Anthony said.
Whether someone is 7 or 70, the group welcomes volunteers.
Andrews said the enjoyment goes beyond gardening.
“I enjoy hanging out together and sharing tips,” she said.
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