A small, nondescript triangle of land is undergoing a transformation to become a special garden and orchard on Madison's South Side in memory of a community garden leader, avid bicyclist and "community-minded spirit."
Construction of the Jessica Bullen Orchard and Quiet Garden, just across from Quann Community Garden where Bullen volunteered and served as treasurer, is almost complete nearly three years after she went for a ride on her Trek Sport bicycle in the town of Cottage Grove and was hit from behind while pedaling along Hope Road. Bullen died three days later on July 3, 2005, at UW Hospital.
She had recently finished graduate work at UW-Madison in the urban and regional planning department, where she received the Outstanding Student of the Year award.
A fruit orchard was an idea Bullen and others active in the garden talked about before her death, said Pamela Hathaway, who became friends with Bullen through the garden and the East Isthmus Neighborhood Planning Council.
"We had our eye on this little triangle of property," she said. "After she was killed, we started talking about the idea again."
A dedication ceremony for the garden will be held Saturday. The fruit and the garden can be enjoyed by anyone in the community, not just those with plots in Quann Community Gardens, Hathaway said.
"It's making use of a space in the neighborhood that was before almost like an eyesore. We're ... making it into one of the strengths of the community."
\ Garden features
Design plans for the garden were led by Sam Dennis, a professor of landscape architecture at UW-Madison.
The garden will include a fruit orchard, a turtle sculpture, a rain garden that filters rain into the ground water, a memorial boulder and a stone council ring, said Barbara Feeney, a master gardener.
Feeney's master gardening volunteer work got her involved in the project, but it just so happened that a group of people wanted to create the memorial garden for Bullen, who was an intern at the state Department of Transportation, where Feeney works and got to know her.
"She was just a very talented person, and on top of that, a real community minded spirit," Feeney said.
\ Organ donor
Bullen's contributions to others in the community didn't end with her death, and one young woman who got a second chance because of Bullen has helped with some fundraising for the garden.
Tanya Ulm, a 19-year-old from Watertown, unexpectedly needed a liver transplant and, within days, was moved to the top of the organ transplant list in July 2005.
The tragedy of Bullen's death turned into a lifesaver for Ulm, who received Bullen's liver and is now a freshman at UW-Milwaukee, studying radiology and ultrasound.
After the transplant, Ulm got in touch with Bullen's family through a hospital program for donor families and recipients.
"It's really surreal to see some of the parallels we have shared," Ulm said, noting she loves gardening and collecting things such as unique rocks. "I've always felt the need to get to know her and what she was like. I feel like because she's part of me now that I kind of live my life for her, too."
\ Uniting force
Hathaway said the garden has brought together many people, including those who were close to Bullen, those who appreciated Bullen's community work and those who didn't know her at all.
"I realized, wow, we have people who never knew each other but live in the same neighborhood, and now we have people meeting," she said. "That is so Jessica. She was so much about a community of people."
Hathaway said that at the beginning of the project, no one thought it would take so long and cost so much. But Bullen's spirit has helped the group get through all the planning and work.
"She was committed, a person who would see a project all the way through to the end," she said.
\ Money still needed
Funding to transform the land, owned by the city, into a garden came from a city neighborhood grant and donations. The group is still looking to raise $1,000 for a few last needs and to establish a maintenance fund. If they raise enough money, they will also build a low stone wall in the garden.
The city's engineering department also helped by pouring a sidewalk on the site and arranging for contractors, which are still funded by the group, Feeney said.
Quann Community Gardens will maintain the garden, and the city has agreed to mow it, but the group is also soliciting volunteers to serve as orchard stewards.
Tracy Sorum, the driver in the crash, was tried in 2006 for homicide by negligent driving, but a Dane County jury deadlocked on a verdict, leading to an agreement in which he pleaded no contest to inattentive driving, paid $615 in fines and court costs and lost his driver's license for a year.
\ IF YOU GO
What: A dedication ceremony for the Jessica Bullen Orchard and Quiet Garden.
Where: Across from Quann Community Gardens, at the corner of Bram and Koster streets.
When: 3 p.m. Saturday, rain or shine.
How to help: Donations, made out to CAC-Community Gardens with Jessica Bullen Memorial written in the memo, can be sent to: CAC c/o Janet Parker, 1717 N.Stoughton Road, Madison, WI 53704.
For more information: Go to www.madison.com/communities/quanngarden/ pages/jessmemorial.php\ \ For information on the garden and how to help: www.madison.com/communities/quanngarden/pages/jessmemorial.php Quann Community Garden: www.madison.com/communities/quanngarden/ Story on Tracy Sorum's driver's license suspended afterthefatalcrash:www.madison.com/archives/read.php?ref=/wsj/2006/08/17/0608160615.php