By CYMBRE FOSTER
Special to the Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Members of the Ma-Me-Ne-Sewong Garden Club have been dynamos in countless civic and conservation projects in the Traverse City area for more than 30 years, from spiffing up parks to keeping the trails clear on an island preserve.
Group members recently celebrated their 35-year anniversary with a lunch at the Top of the Park at the Park Place and guest speakers who commemorated their years of hard work and dedication. Lifetime members Peg Simmons, their oldest member at 102, and Ruthmary Coohon were in attendance.
The garden club’s name means “Lake of Many Islands” because it began with members from the Long Lake area, said member Carol Morris. Today, members don’t necessarily live near Long Lake, but the total number of active members is kept at just 25. They purposely keep the numbers low.
“We keep it small because members feel it’s more intimate to be able to meet in each other’s homes,” said Morris, who has been a member for 10 years and owns Breeze Hill Greenhouse near Traverse City.
The club held its first meeting in September 1977 and has been going strong ever since.
Helen Nehls was invited to join by one of her neighbors 15 years ago and has loved being a member.
“It’s a great group,” said Nehls, an avid gardener who lives near Long Lake. “We meet monthly and have several projects, though not always big ones.”
In the 1980s the group took an active role in preserving South Island in Long Lake near Traverse City, which continues today. The group not only keeps the trails clear but also erects signs identifying native plants, and more. Their most current project is installing informational kiosks.
“In early summer we’ll be putting kiosks up that identify the history of the island, plants, and special features,” said Morris.
The group considers itself caretakers of the 229-acre island. They not only work on the island picking up trash or moving brush, but they have raised money to have it put into a conservation trust. Today the island is a natural preserve open to the public.
Club members make evergreen wreaths that decorate the doors of the Long Lake Township office and area schools at Christmas and they make memorial wreaths for Veterans Day.
Another signature project is the maintenance of the Blue Star By-Way Memorial Marker and Garden along Kid’s Creek on the south lawn at the Grand Traverse Pavilions in Traverse City.
“It was developed during the war to honor veterans,” said Morris. “We maintain it and try to keep the deer out.”
Spring typically is quiet for the club, said Morris. They’ll be cleaning up the island and baking 5,000 cookies for Girls on the Run, an annual track event in Traverse City. They will also hold a celebratory potluck to say thanks to outgoing board members and welcome the new.