It was the culmination of nearly seven years of planning, fundraising, and hard work when Arthur “Ike” Enzenauer, Lions Club Past District Governor, stood in front of friends and fellow Lions to dedicate the new Sensory Garden at Santee Lakes on Saturday, April 16, 2011. On hand for the ceremony were members of the community, and representatives from the Santee Chamber of Commerce and local politicians. Also present were a number of visually-impaired visitors who now could experience the beauty of a garden by touch and scent. All of the plants will have identification plaques giving both common and scientific names in English and Braille. At the east entrance to the garden there are two large plaques, one in English and the other in Braille, which detail Past Lions International Director Bill Moody’s thoughts on “Planting a Lions Garden.”
The Sensory Garden project began in 2004, shortly after the Lions Club dedicated the disabled-access fishing pier on Lake 4, next to the Kiwanis Disabled Access Playground. The new garden is in the same area, on the west side of the playground. Together the Lions and Kiwanis have worked hard to provide opportunities for disabled visitors to enjoy as much of the fun at the Lakes as possible. The Lions also have a number of project ideas in the planning stages, including possibly putting in concrete pads at points along lake shorelines to allow anglers in wheelchairs to fish from the shore as well as on the pier. They also would like to create concrete walkways with raised curbs around the lakes to provide a safe place for both vision-impaired visitors and those in wheelchairs to enjoy strolls. As Enzenauer explained, this is all part of the Lions Club’s efforts, with Santee Lakes and Padre Dam, “to make the lakes accessible to everyone, regardless of handicap.”
Speaking at the dedication, Bill Pommerling, President of the Padre Dam Municipal Water District Board of Directors, thanked the Lions for their efforts. As he pointed out, “Projects like this don’t happen just because of money; projects like this happen because of heart.” Pommerling specifically mentioned Enzenauer as one of those whose “heart” helped to make the garden possible. Santee Lakes Director of Parks and Recreation Allen Carlisle, who was also instrumental in the creation of the garden, thanked the Lions for their dedication to the project and to making it possible for more people to experience the Lakes. He even pointed out that, as the ceremony was taking place, a man in a wheelchair was fishing from the nearby disabled-access pier – something that would not have been possible without the Lions Club.
Of course, even with plenty of “heart,” a project of this magnitude does not happen without money, and the Lions worked hard through a difficult recession to bring in the $78,000 needed to get the garden to near-completion.
This included $25,000 from Santee Lakes– money that comes from user fees, not the Padre Dam MWD which created the Lakes – as well as from a number of local businesses. Perhaps one of the greatest single monetary gifts, however, was $10,000 donated by Lions Club member John Errickson, who is not only member locally but also in Florida where he spends part of the year. Errickson and a friend drove cross-country from Florida, leaving on the previous Tuesday, in order to be at the ceremony. That is the kind of dedication to a cause that is the hallmark of the Lions Clubs. However, as Enzenauer explained, the Lions Club still needs about $4000 to cover the final expenses of the garden. Anyone interested in helping can contact the Rancho Santee Lions Association.
One other person who deserves special recognition is landscape architect George Mercer, who designed and planned the garden pro bono. Mercer, who has an office in La Mesa and has worked on several Santee schools, put in countless hours on the project to help it become a reality. He explained after the ceremony that the feeling of satisfaction at making the garden possible was all the reward he needed.
The Rancho Santee Lions Association Sensory Garden is open to all who want to enjoy the beauty of nature. It is located between Lakes 3 and 4, immediately to the west of the Kiwanis Disabled-Access Playground. Padre Dam’s Santee Lakes recreation area can be reached from Fanita Parkway between Mast Blvd. and Carlton Hills Blvd. and is open daily. Vehicle parking fees for day use are $3 on weekdays and $5 on weekends and holidays. For more information, visit the Santee Lakes website. For more pictures of the day, check out my stories on Demotix and Santee Examiner.