Fragrant dream unfolds: Joe Parks garden along riverwalk is dedicated

Thursday, June 19, 2008

DOVER — Joe Parks had a lifelong dream blossom Wednesday with the completion of the Joe B. Parks Riverwalk Public Gardens.

Friends, family, city officials and admirers gathered along the banks of the Cocheco River for the official dedication ceremony of the gardens, which are the result of nearly a year of work and hundreds of volunteers.

“It (the park) says Joe Parks, but it really is the community of Dover,” Parks said. “This is a unique project in New England, or at least New Hampshire. Find me a project like this in which volunteers have done all the work.”

Parks added that although he supported the project, Beth Fischer, the volunteer coordinator for the project, was the person to organize and motivate the volunteer effort.

“They (Dover Main Street) found somebody else to run it who has run everybody else ragged,” Parks joked. “A lot of work was done here in self-defense.”

The project began as an effort between Dover Main Street and the Dover Rotary Club last fall, and has since involved at least 200 volunteers and help from the Ageless Dreamer Foundation.

In addition to providing the inspiration for the park with his own garden, Parks has donated numerous plants, designed the garden and put in several hours of labor to help complete the finished project.

Parks has hybridized more than 22 types of rhododendrons and was asked by the Smithsonian to register his six-acre garden, which he has made available to the public in Dover. He is also formerly the president of the Massachusetts Rhododendron Society.

As part of the larger project, Local Eagle Scout Steven Jencso has also worked with Connie Roy, of Reverie Design, and a group of Boy Scouts to redo the mural under the Chestnut Street bridge.

“These are some of the kinds of events that make me proud to be a part of this city,” Mayor Scott Myers said during the dedication. “People sometimes say when government gets of out of the way, the real work gets done… We (City Council) got out of the way and let the average folks take over and the results are here.”

Although it took countless volunteer hours to make the park work, Laurie Widmark, the founder of the Ageless Dreamer Foundation, said it was Parks’ initial dream that made the park possible.

Joe Parks stands in the Joe B. Parks Community Garden following a dedication ceremony on Wednesday.

“Thank you for having the courage to dream out loud and share your dream with us,” Widmark said.

Parks also got a surprise from Laura Smith, of Rivers Photography, who presented him with a framed photograph of the gardens.

Jewelry Creations will also donate 10 percent of any sale of its Garden Collection toward a trust created to help fund the maintenance of the park.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the trust can make donations to the Joe B. Parks Riverwalk Public Garden Trust, C/O the Finance Department, City of Dover.

Anybody also wishing to help with the future maintenance of the parks, or “Adopt-A-Spot” can contact Dover Main Street.