To keep city gardens abloom despite a budget shortfall, Wayzata asked its residents to adopt 14 municipal flower beds for the summer, and they have responded.

The city decided to try the adoptions in the face of a $300,000 budget gap created by a drop in building and development fees blamed on the lagging economy.

To help close the gap, Wayzata reduced hours for lifeguards, accepted the early retirement of Sonny Clark, park superintendent for 29 years, and left his and three other city positions unfilled. From the parks and maintenance budget it cut two seasonal park and garden workers for a savings of $40,000 and dropped $6,500 in seeds, fertilizer and flower purchases for 47 gardens the city plants each summer.

"Wayzata is known for having a pretty lush flower presentation around the city, and that budget was cut in half," said City Council Member Andrew Mullin. "The fact that we elected to cut it was disappointing to a lot of people."

For years the gardening budget has been untouchable, said Mayor Ken Wilcox. "This year we didn't have any choice. The inflow of planning fees and engineering fees and so on have been pretty stable over the years, and this year it just evaporated on us."

The shortfall had nothing to do with the reduction in state aid that has caused problems for other cities, Wilcox said. Wayzata gets no local government aid.

A resident suggested that the flower plots be put out for adoption rather than left to sprout weeds. So far, residents have come to the rescue of 12 of the 14 plots up for adoption.

"I think people really want to help and they want to get involved in the community," Wilcox said. "They want to participate. They want to share in the solution. It's kind of a community coming together to solve a problem, and people feel pretty good about that."

Mullin's wife, Kristyn, organized 10 families and their children to adopt a large garden on the city beach at Lake Minnetonka.

The families spent $500 on plants, cleared the garden and planted the flowers last weekend.

"We are going to use this as an opportunity to teach our kids about public service," Mullin said.

Weeding and watering will be part of the responsibility all summer. Kids will scoop water from the lake when they do their watering chores.

If the adoptions work, the city will farm out more of its gardens next year, said Public Works Director Dave Dudinsky.

Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711