Project AWAKE found its beginnings in the activities of the Newton Chamber Community Betterment Committee. The committee researched community beautification projects in Indiana and Iowa City (Project GREEN). The committee decided Project GREEN had promise for Newton.
Many of the original group contributed volunteer labor and financing, achieved primarily from modest individual donations in response to a mailing list developed over the years. As a result, in November of 1981 a group spun off from the Newton Chamber organization and formed Project AWAKE (A Winning Answer to a Kept Environment). The Newton City Council adopted a resolution establishing a Project AWAKE Fund and a Board of Trustees for the management of the fund.
The original trustees were Don Byers, Dick Rabedeaux, and Bill Swartz. The City Clerk oversaw the activities of the fund, donations to which were tax deductible.
It was the belief of everyone participating in Project AWAKE that all citizens share in the responsibility for making Newton a pleasant, attractive, and clean place in which to live. In the early years, the focus of AWAKE was 1) to promote high standards of design in architecture, landscape architecture, and community planning, as well as high standards of maintenance and cleanliness in the community, and; 2) to serve as a forum for beautification and improvement ideas as a catalyst for individual, neighborhood, and community groups, and as a coordinator and liaison between groups and individuals pursuing common goals, and; 3) to encourage the preservation of open spaces, natural features, and historic landmarks and areas; 4) to support, supplement and recommend beautification projects of governmental agencies and volunteer committees; and 5) to stimulate citizens to make improvements on their individual properties and to work toward overall community appearance.
Source: A History of Newton, Iowa by Larry Ray Hurto, 1992
The concept of an Arboretum and Botanical Garden was first introduced to Project AWAKE in 1995. Denny Slings, former Parks Director for the Newton Park Commission and a member of the AWAKE Board of Directors, approached Project AWAKE with the idea to develop the arboretum on six acres of unused property located in the southeast corner of the newly developing Agnes Patterson Memorial Park.
The Agnes Patterson Memorial Park is an 80-acre tract of land that was donated to the Park Commission by Howard Patterson with the stipulation that it be developed into a public park and named Agnes Patterson Memorial Park in memory of his late wife. The Park Commission took possession of the property in 1992 with the development of the park beginning shortly thereafter.
The Newton Board of Park Commissioners was also approached in 1995 concerning the development of the Arboretum. The Park Board gave informal consent for developing plans utilizing the park land at Agnes Patterson Park, and was consulted regularly during the planning process.
The Park Board, David Rorabaugh, Gene Knopf and Ivan Dimon expressed continued support and enthusiasm for the project. A formal long-term lease between the Newton Park Commission and Project AWAKE concerning the original four acres occupied by the Newton Arboretum and Botanical Garden was signed on April 22, 1997, several months after development of the site had begun.
The first meeting of the Arboretum Committee, a sub-committee of Project AWAKE, was held on October 10, 1995. The original committee members were Linda Campbell, Betty Dickinson, Gary Peterson, Wayne Straight, Mark Monroe, and Denny Slings. In 1996 the master plan was finalized and volunteers planted the first 102 trees on May 28. A trail layout was developed, and specifications were completed for retaining walls and plant beds.
During this time, AWAKE board member Dwight Stanfield, had introduced the concept of a learning Center to Mrs. Ann Krumm, wife of Daniel J. Krumm. She readily embraced the idea and believed it to be a fitting tribute to her late husband who was an avid gardener. Mrs. Krumm and her son David were involved in the planning.
In 1998 plans were finalized for the D.J. Krumm Learning Center. Jack Topp was the architect. Randy’s Construction (Randy Terlouw) was awarded a contract for the construction of the Daniel J. Krumm Horticultural learning Center. Construction began in July of 1999. A groundbreaking ceremony was held May 6, 1999; occupancy was in April 2000. The first horticultural seminar was held at the Krumm Center in February 2001.
The focus of Project AWAKE became the maintenance of the Arboretum at that time. One horticulturist is employed by AWAKE, with significant maintenance, and planning done by the all -volunteer board and the Friends of Project AWAKE.