On the Garden Path-Living Memorial Gardens

Because of community spirit, garden flourishes in place of weeds

| November 2008

When art teacher Jane Beran looked at the weed-lined former swimming pool in Sidney, Neb., she saw possibilities for a beautiful new garden. Her vision took root and flowered into reality, thanks to a local government receptive to fresh ideas and a community willing to volunteer time and labor toward a common goal.

Beran approached the city council about her idea for the pool in 1982. A new municipal pool had been dedicated in town in 1978, and since that time the now-defunct pool in Legion Park had become unused and abandoned. The council gave Beran two weeks to come up with a plan for transforming the site, telling her that after that deadline, they would begin taking bids for the pool’s demolition.

Beran’s hope was to see the pool turned into a sunken­ garden. With feedback from the community and an inspiring idea from resident Helen Hiner, a plan for a memorial garden – with trees, shrubs and plants growing in the memory of loved ones – developed, and the Living Memorial Gardens was born. The LMG Association was organized, and monthly meetings were scheduled for anyone interested in helping.

The first phase of the project was to lay out the area on the west side of the pool as a map of the United States. By the summer of 1982, the sunken gardens were becoming a reality, with three terraces and paths to the site where fountains would be constructed within the old pool. Membership reached 125, and funds were received from the city, as well as various clubs, memorials and individuals. The project was truly a community effort.


The first memorial dedication took place July 4, 1983. By the following year, the map areas were being adopted­ by members who wanted their own garden plot to care for – a practice that continues today. Some of those members were Boy Scouts, 4-H clubs and Job’s Daughters, as well as individuals.

By July 1985, the Living Memorial Gardens was a place to mark Sidney’s centennial, and volunteers continued to be the force behind all the work at the LMG, writing fundraising editorials and providing manpower to keep the gardens going.

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