- 1 of 4 Photos | View More Photos
SANDY TWP. -- Armed with shovels, nearly 200 plants and a truckload of landscaping stones, generations of Sandy Valley High School students spent Monday converting an overgrown embankment near the school's football field into a garden to honor those Sandy Valley graduates who have died.
Dave Reicosky, a 1965 Sandy Valley graduate, said the idea for the Sandy Valley Alumni Garden was born after the Class of 1965 met for a reunion and talked about ways they could get together more frequently while also helping the community. He said the class last year created a butterfly garden at the Magnolia Flouring Mill. This was the first time they incorporated current Sandy Valley students.
"We're trying to plant some alumni spirit seeds," said Reicosky, who lives in Michigan but still owns a farm in East Sparta. "Hopefully, they will see by our example the importance of giving back."
The roughly 10 alumni were joined Monday by 13 members of Sand Valley's Leo Club, a service club that is the junior branch of the Lions Club, along with the club's advisers and Superintendent David Fischer.
Sandy Valley senior Ambriah Phillips, who serves as president of the Leo Club, said the students were excited about the alumni garden project because it dovetailed perfectly into the group's own flower planting project. Last week, club members created the outline of the letters "SV" in white limestone and filled the letters with red flowers.
"This area before, it wasn't pretty," she said. "We turned it into something really cool."
In the alumni garden, the Leo Club members planted an assortment of milkweed seeds along the edges of the nearly 30-foot-long patch. They marked the locations of the seeds with plastic forks and spoons and then added a cover of brown landscaping rocks.
Reicosky said they chose milkweed plants for the garden because they want to encourage the repopulation of the monarch butterfly. The monarch population has declined drastically over the past two decades, which national experts say is partly due to the decline of milkweeds in much of eastern North America. The organization Monarch Watch estimates that roughly 2.2 million acres of potential milkweed habitat are lost in the United States each year.
"Those are the primary (plant) species that the butterfly has to have because they only lay their eggs on milkweed," Reicosky said. "The caterpillar only feeds on milkweed, and if milkweed goes away, the monarch butterfly dies. It goes extinct."
Reicosky hopes that future Sandy Valley science classes also will be able to use the garden to learn about the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. He believes they'll be able to find caterpillars in the garden this fall.
Making a connection
Monday's work on the alumni garden only paused for a few moments to take a group photo and for an occasional trip down memory lane.
Reicosky grabbed everyone's attention as he stood at the top of the embankment with his hand on a wooden post.
"This was the post where the original transit was located," Reicosky said, referring to the device that engineers used to determine the layout of Sandy Valley's school buildings that opened in 2009. "They put the GPS transit here so the foundations were all placed in the right spot and they were all the right height. This is going to be the post for our sign for the alumni garden. So, there's a little bit of history there."
Phillips looked to her classmates and admitted, "I didn't even know that post was there."
Sandy Valley junior Alana Hill agreed, adding that she valued Reicosky's bits of history.
"I love that. He's always telling us so much. I feel so connected," she said.