Japanese area added to Joe B. Parks River Walk Public Gardens

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

DOVER — The Joe B. Parks River Walk Public Gardens now has an international flair following the introduction of a Japanese garden by a group of Dover High School horticulture students.

As the newly planted garden drank up the steady rain Tuesday, students and staff stood around their new creation for the official dedication of the Japanese garden to the “staff and students of the Agriculture and Life Sciences classes of Dover High School and the Regional Career Technical Center.”

Once a tabletop model inside Room 128 of the Career Technical Center, the plans from about a dozen students in Heather Fabbri’s horticulture class have now sprung to life on a small triangular plot near the Cocheco River.

Although Joe Parks, who has worked with the students throughout the process, was not able to attend the dedication, his thoughts were still apparent throughout the ceremony.

“This truly was something that meant so much to him,” said a teary-eyed Beth Fischer, who worked with Parks to create the garden. “He so believes in youth and what kids can do.”

Although the project is still in progress, it is already a far cry from the 43 feet by 43 feet and 30-foot piece of land that was previously just mulch. When it’s finished, the triangular garden will be bordered by vegetation and rocks, with steppingstones, stonewalls and earthy pathways.

Since April 3, students have worked on the garden every Friday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and had to make up missed class time.

“This wasn’t just a get-out-of-school-free card,” said Kelsey Neely, a student in the class.

Instead, she said, students were able to see a direct impact of building the garden as residents walked by with their pets and commented on the beauty of the garden.

“(Before) it looked liked a left-out triangle in the middle of Dover,” Neely said. “Now it looks like this.”

And Career Technical Center Director Jim Amara said students should continue that same sense of pride in the garden even after the class ends.

“As this garden grows older and you grow older, come by and watch it,” Amara said. “It’s your garden, and I think that’s kind of special.”