Planting Seeds of Growth on Wheeling Island

Photo by Scott McCloskey New Life United Methodist Church Pastor Earnest Watkins, left, and Wheeling Island resident Marty Wach look over the future site of the “Almost Heaven Biblical Botanical Garden.”

New Life United Methodist Church plans to turn a property it owns along South Huron Street into a large botanical garden.

Wheeling Island resident Marty Wach said plans are in the works to create the garden, known as the “Almost Heaven Biblical Botanical Garden,” from medicinal mountain and monastery garden plants, including Biblical plants. Wach and New Life Pastor Earnest Watkins said they believe the garden will become a symbol of life and new hope returning to the Island.

Wach said they began the garden this earlier this year with a section made up of at least 250 sunflower plants that were sown from seeds by clients of The Seeing Hand Association of Wheeling. He said New Life officials are working with several other churches to expand the garden project.

“The purpose of the garden is to bring life back to Wheeling Island by showing the kinds of beautiful things that are available through our mountains … and at the same time point out plants from the Bible that we can actually grow here and enjoy,” Wach said. “They will be able to start planting probably by next spring, and we think it is going to be a really great tourist attraction to walk people through.”

Wach said the sunflower garden already is attracting yellow finches and thousands of bumble bees. He said they plan to package and sell thousands of sunflower seeds with clients from the Seeing Hand Association to raise proceeds for next year’s garden.

Watkins said church officials were looking for the best way to use the property after they purchased the former Community of Christ Church on the north end of Wheeling Island. After they realized that building a new church at the garden site would prove to be too costly for the church budget, they decided to take a different path.

“We were never able to get a bid that was within our budget (to build a new church) and we remained faithful to never entering a project that was over our head budget-wise,” Watkins said. “We were looking for a way to use the property to enhance the quality of life here on Wheeling Island and this is part of that project.”

Because New Life found a home at the other end of Wheeling Island, he said church officials were looking for a way to use the vacant lot with a “different vision.”

“We will bring on board any other churches that are interested in being a part of this project,” said Watkins.

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