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Teresa McLaughlin, Reiman Gardens, (515) 294-4412
Megan Keene, Reiman Gardens, (515) 294-6356
Annette Hacker, News Service, (515) 294-3720


AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University's Reiman Gardens sustained thousands of dollars in flood damage Sunday, Nov. 16, following city water main breaks.

A Reiman Gardens custodian first noticed a leak in a 12-inch water main at about 6:45 a.m. Sunday. He notified ISU's Facilities Planning and Management department, which oversees all physical aspects of the university. FP&M reported the problem to the City of Ames at 7:15 a.m., and the water was turned off at approximately 9 a.m.

The leak caused soil and mulch from the "Suburban Back Yard" on the east side of Reiman Gardens to flow into other gardens and around Marge Hunziker House. Reiman Gardens Director Teresa McLaughlin characterized the initial damage as minor compared to what happened later in the day.

The most significant loss occurred after 4:15 p.m. Sunday, when the re-opened water main burst as Ames crews worked to repair it. Water poured into the southwest end of the facility, leaving gardens flooded, walking paths washed out, Marge Hunziker House filled with standing water, and "Lake Helen" pond clouded with mulch, soil and silt. Debris clogged drains and irrigation system valves. Since the irrigation system had been turned off for the season, McLaughlin says she won't know the full extent of that damage until spring.

Despite the harm to the southwest part of the garden and weeks of cleanup and repair ahead, Reiman Gardens will be open for business as usual. Hazel's Kitchen, the conservatory and Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing, gift shop, 3-D fall mum display and upcoming poinsettia display haven't been affected.

"The parts of the garden that people normally enjoy in the winter are fine and ready for company," McLaughlin said. All of Reiman Gardens' holiday events, including the "Blossoms of Light" celebration, will go on as planned. The holiday display is scheduled to open the day after Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, mulch, soil and turf will need to be replaced in the affected areas outdoors, and the pond will have to be drained, cleaned and filled. Some of the pathways have extensive repairs ahead, McLaughlin adds, because the both the rock base and pea gravel covering have washed away.

"Full cleanup and repair depends upon the weather, materials available and staff available, but we hope to get this done before the ground freezes," McLaughlin said.

Even before the damage, Reiman Gardens faced a tight budget year as Iowa State University continues to weather cuts in state appropriations, combined with decreased fundraising revenue for the gardens. Reiman Gardens recently reduced its annual budget by $110,000. The gardens are insured, McLaughlin says, but there's a $10,000 deductible and limited labor resources to complete the needed repairs.

"Reiman Gardens is important to Iowa State's educational mission and to the economic and cultural vitality of Ames," said Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Benjamin Allen. "We will somehow find the resources to bring the gardens back to what they were."

Total dollar loss to the gardens is yet unknown. McLaughlin said an insurance adjuster from LaMair-Mulock-Condon in Des Moines would survey the damage Nov. 17.


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Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
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