Landscape design specialist John Schulz has a thing for serene settings.
Schulz designed the Meditation Garden at Myrtle Hill Cemetery and most recently completed the As Time Goes By Garden in the shadow of Rome’s iconic Clocktower. Now he is tackling the eight decade old labyrinth on the west side of Jackson Hill.
The labyrinth was constructed as part of a Works Progress Administration project that was started around 1935 as an amphitheater. Over the years, drainage issues and erosion had filled in a lot of the landmark.
The way it was constructed, water coming off Jackson Hill flows through the old brick-paved maze and under a rock bridge toward what has been known for years as the city duck pond.
“We’re going to do a garden, starting with dry river beds,” Schulz said. “One of the river beds flows down into the labyrinth from the civic center while the other comes down from the tourism office side of the Civic Center parking lot.”
The river bed has a fabric liner that is filled with 25 tons of river rock so by the time run-off reaches the labyrinth, it should be fairly clear and the rocks should catch any litter.
To further beautify the area, Schulz has plans to plant fern beds along with tea olive plants and gardenias — both plants that won’t be devoured by the deer that frequent the area coming off Jackson Hill and the Burwell Creek wetlands.
Schulz’s objective is to make it look as natural as possible, with the exception of a Japanese bridge across one of the dry river beds.
The river rock had to be placed individually into the dry river bed, a painstaking process which has now been completed. Schulz hopes the planting can be completed within another couple of weeks.
Lisa Smith, director of the Georgia’s Rome Office of Tourism, said she believes that once the work is done, the site will get even more use than it has through the years. She said it is frequently used for photo shoots and she has even seen a couple of weddings there over the years.
Through the years, the labyrinth has hosted haunted Rome story-telling events and an occasional music and lunch program.
The WPA project at Jackson Hill once envisioned a golf course. What was to be the clubhouse was later converted into the Civic Center. The old city duck pond was originally a part of the project and was supposed to have a “tropical island planted with palm trees,” Schulz said. Driving trails around the hill were also part of the plans more than 80 years ago.
The work at the labyrinth is being paid for by private donations. “Lisa Smith is magic,” Schulz said. Donations can be made through the Myrtle Hill-Oak Hill Association.
Smith said a formal name for the site is still being worked on, but likes the idea of calling it the Tranquility Garden.