The kids enjoyed digging the holes and pouring buckets of water for the Echinacea purpera. The grown-ups delighted in the sense of community that was already growing along with the flowers and herbs.
Taslim Mohammed and Amanda Perry were among more than 30 kids, parents, and neighbors who pitched in with shovels, trowels, sweat equity, and good cheer as the Friends of Dover Beach including many Q Terrace residents planted a butterfly garden.
It was clear to the participants on a stunning sun-lit Tuesday late afternoon by the Quinnipiac that not only Monarch butterflies were on the way, but also a stronger sense of ownership of the green space across from the formerly troubled development.
At 6:15 p.m. Friends of Dover Beach organizer-and-chief Pat Bissell was frazzled. “I have 15 volunteers and my Yale guy is not here yet,” she said.
Yet by 6:20, that Yale guy, William Lynam (on the right with Clinton Avenue School 10 year old Shekinah Hawkins), with Yale’s Urban Resources Initiative (URI) was arriving in his pick-up delivering coreopsis, hosta, nepeta, and other herbs and perennials, 30 in total.
The flowers were to be planted on the corner of Front Street and Del Rio Drive, at the northern end of Dover Beach Park. More gardeners of various ages had also arrived.
Now Bissell was delighted. “I don’t have enough gloves,” she said. “I didn’t think this many people would come.”
These were good problems to have,. Before Tuesday Bissell, who founded Friends of Dover Beach Park more than a year ago, had had little luck in engaging a significant number of the residents of Q Terrace in meetings and horticultural events.
Perhaps because school was out and kids were around, neighbors appeared more than eager to participate. Friends of Dover Beach had leafleted and created a nifty sign, and a large pile of dirt had been dropped in the environs for at least a week before the Tuesday plantings. It all helped to develop momentum for the big horticultural day.
“The kids got excited and saw the sign,” said Calisa Cole, as she and her 2 year old, Dawayne Giban, tried to decide which, if not the marigolds, was his favorite color flower and which he wanted to drop into the garden-in-formation.
A true community effort, Friends of Dover Beach were joined by the gardeners of the Chatham Square Neighborhood Association’s greenspace group, as well as Damien Soto (on the right) and Edgar Galen.
These two 15 year old teens were part of the city’s ten-kid Youth at Work crew deployed at the nearby Clinton Avenue School, and being supervised for the summer by Mary Rosario.
After the boys prepared a serious hole for the Village Green Japanese Zelikova tree that URI’s Lynam had brought to be planted near the butterfly garden, Rosario said to the young men: “When you drive by, you can tell your friends you planted that tree.”
Before Damien and Edgar did the finishing touches, however, John Suarez and Wanda Alicea had done some serious rock removal with a pick ax. Neighbors of Pat and Brent Bissell’s on Lombard Street, they had seen the sign last week for the upcoming garden planting when they strolled by to go fishing along the Quinnipiac.
So this day, they were delighted to come by to contribute needed muscle. As security officers at Yale, they’d also heard about the planting from William Lynam and the URI, which is affiliated with Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
At heart, it was a day for MaryAnn Moran of the Chatham Square Neighborhood Association to get to know Malik Russell one-on-one over an Achillea Wonderful Wampee in a joint enterprise that would enchant the neighborhood and instill local pride.
“It really came out beautiful,” said Luz Manso, the go-to gardener from Lombard Street who has her own butterfly garden.” This is really a community project,” she said. “They’ll learn a sense of taking care of the garden, and it’ll show them coming together as a community.”
And the butterflies? Where were they?
Manso said she had Monarchs all last summer. She suggested that the plantings here would attract them as well. “They’ll get cabbage butterflies and swallow tails too,” she said. “The kids will watch as the garden grows.”
As the planting wound down and the neighbors dispersed, there was discussion whether to name the garden and to put up a sign and, if so, what it might be called.
“Maybe it should be called ‘The Garden of the Children of Dover Beach Park,’” suggested Lee Cruz.
It was left that a name might be determined, maybe through a contest, at the next event, the group’s annual picnic, scheduled for Aug. 15. By that time the Monarchs might have gotten the word too and would already be flying over to Dover Beach.