When Rockland received its most recent destination designation from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, accompanying the news announcement was a photograph of the Gilbert and Adams Central Park and gardens in their glory, with the Reed-installed gazebo, and the water view in the background.

For a minimum of 25 years, Marie ‘Sis’ Reed and friends created and maintained the beautiful gardens and gazebo at the Gilbert and Adams Central Park. Don’t know it? It is the park that faces the Trade Winds on the harbor side.

I had not seen the gardens in the springtime, so went to the park to see what had sprung. What I found was that a mower had been driven over very-obviously-not-grass tulips, beheading them. From the remains, it appeared they were within a few days of flowering. On the north side of the lot, all the bushes have been cut down to the ground. I do not know by whom. The shrubs there, along with the wildflowers which grew in and around them, formed an important natural buffer, as well as a wildlife habitat.

Last year, I took on the upkeep of the park, starting before the festivals and continuing on through November. This involvement, though brief, gave me historic, political and tourism knowledge of Rockland. I spoke with Mrs. Reed, who advised me she could no longer tend to the gardens, and that she had also lost heart working on them because the workers so often destroyed plantings that she and her co-gardeners had installed. The value of their work remains priceless. How I wish I had seen the gardens in their prime.
Knowing the value of natural beauty, local businesses generously contributed plants in 2009. The Police Department staff was most kind and tolerant in allowing me to haul water from there to the gardens, as the water pump within the park does not work.
I added two notebooks in the gazebo. One was the start of a catalog of the plants in the gardens, and the other was a public notebook, there to invite people to record their thoughts if they chose to do so. (The police tell me that they are amazed that both were not taken until the first week of March).

Some visitors to the park recorded their thoughts. Thoughts on the recent death of dear relative, an historically-interesting note written by a relative of the oldest living veteran at the time, upon her passing. Her story had made national news. Some just wrote their thanks for having a place of peace and serenity, away from the traffic and to-do on Main Street. Tourists often make the park and gardens a regular, often initial, stopping-off point. Local residents walk their dogs, eat their lunches, and come to relax. And it is the trolley stop, and the view for guests of the Trade Winds.

The grass in the park often grew tall, and I learned that this was a contracted job; the contractors had simply not done it. When the festivals began, orange plastic fences were installed. This is a yearly occurrence to prevent people from getting onto festival grounds without paying admission. The fence is not a pretty sight. I, and, I’m sure, others, proposed a permanent, low-wall fence made of stone, executed by volunteers, and suggested that having this public park walled off by festival corporations might indicate that they need to have a hand in the park’s upkeep.

Smaller gardens all over the city are maintained on a volunteer basis with so much pride and dedication for years and years, that they are taken for granted. “Somebody” does it. These gardens are in public spaces. The library gardens and lawn are beautiful. This work is done by professional gardeners, and the City of Rockland.

Not nearly as complicated a process as downtown development, yet one of the most strikingly beautiful and most-enjoyed aspects, inviting gardens and natural beauty are part of the lifeblood of any city. Who will care for the gardens now, and will it be possible to coordinate and complement those efforts.

Maggie Trout