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WAUSAU (WAOW) -
It's a stretch of land in Wausau you may never have known exists.
"It's amazing how many people say they've lived in Wausau their whole life and they've never heard about us" said Darla Zastrow, tour guide at Robert Monk Public Gardens.
But what might be Wausau's best kept secret has big plans for the future, thanks to volunteers like Zastrow.
The Wausau resident provides free tours of the 20-acre garden on the second Saturday of every month to the public. The next is being given this Sat. July 14th starting at 9 a.m.
"I gear it to the people that come. If there is a family, I try to orientate it to the children" Zastrow said.
Focusing efforts on catching children's attention, volunteers who oversee the gardens have plans to carry out the vision of Robert W. Monk III. The Wausau native donated the land being used with the dream in mind to transform it into a world-class botanical garden center.
That's a dream Zastrow says is important to fulfill. She says her first encounter with Monk III was in 2001 when she was picnicking alongside the property's pond. While she was eating the man approached her and explained what he had in mind for the property.
Zastrow recalls saying "please, let me help!"
And that she has done.
Over the next 15 years she says the garden's master plan calls for the construction of a children's nature education center and space to model various landscaping varieties. By the end of 2012 Zastrow says they will have completed building a wheelchair-accessible tree fort overlooking the same pond she first met Monk III at.
"It's changing all the time. Different flowers are in bloom, different birds are here. I have tried for years to find my favorite spot, and have found that every spot is my favorite spot" Zastrow said.
Not a bad problem to have for a true nature lover.
Robert Monk Public Gardens are located at 1895 North 1st Avenue in Wausau. From Bridge Street, turn north onto 1st Avenue. Continue straight down the road until it ends at the garden's gate. Parking is available to the left of the garden gate.
The garden is open from dawn until dusk daily. Garden volunteers say the gate is to keep deer out and is never locked. Visitors are asked to keep the gate closed when using the property to ensure deer stay outside the property limits.
For more information visit http://www.rwmonkgardens.org/.
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