Mentor, Ohio is outside of Cleveland, a quiet suburb along Lake Erie. It was the home of President James A. Garfield, was ranked by CNN Money in 2010 as the 37th best places to live in the United States, and boasts the longest public swimming beach in all of Ohio. Along an industrial stretch near the railroad tracks there is even a jungle.
“Judy’s Jungle”, to be exact – a sprawling garden with a score of fiberglass animals, hiding in plain sight along the parking lot of local business MT Heat Treat. They’ve been in business for almost 50 years, and their garden has been in the fiberglass animal business for over 20. Creating the garden was a unique solution to a unique problem: the parking lot at the plant is short at one end, and in the winter trucks wouldn’t be able to tell where the lot ended and the deep snow began. They’d sometimes get stuck and need to be towed out. So owners O.V. Mathews and his wife Judy came to the lot’s rescue by planting a big garden in the back, so drivers could see where it ended.
Trees and shrubs didn’t seem like quite enough though, so they started adding some life-size fiberglass creatures. No particular reason – they just liked them. One by one, they turned the garden into “Judy’s Jungle”, where you’re welcome to visit and see the animals. Most of them are true to size, but there are a couple of exceptions – a giant praying mantis for one, and pretty friendly-looking T-Rex. He’s been arguing with the lion lately over who is really the King of the Jungle.