Cape Gazette
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Commentary

Let’s build a botanical garden for coastal Sussex County

By Michael Zajic | Jan 10, 2012
Michael Zajic retired as a horticultural supervisor III at Brookside Gardens of the National Capital Park and Planning Commission in Wheaton, Md.

Those who live here say that slower lower is God’s country, an oasis of quiet, prosperous civility and beauty in an increasingly rude, crowded world.  Likely, the secret will continue to “out” and draw rapidly increasing development.

For that reason, I propose a push by all of us who like the idea to create a beautiful gem of a public botanical garden here in coastal Sussex; a push now before land becomes scarcer and more difficult to acquire.  A public garden of 40 acres would allow adequate area for beautiful, varied display gardens and plant collections, water features, parking, visitor and maintenance facilities, and some buffering forest around it to preserve its quiet and visual isolation.

Like having good libraries, schools, thriving churches and great public parks, a community could only be happier with a great public garden for all of us to use in the many ways gardens can be used and enjoyed.

A botanical garden teaches us all about plants, a resource for all our residents and gardeners and garden professionals.  They are great places for meetings, weddings, ceremonies, parties, walking, meditating, painting, photography, bird and animal watching.  It is where you get ideas for your own garden, not to mention gardening advice from horticultural professionals.  It adds an institutional level of expertise about the plant kingdom into the community, otherwise well endowed.

Most of all we just enjoy the experience of natural beauty in a quiet surround.  This will matter even more as time goes on and local population and development increases.

A public botanic garden deserves the support and assistance not just of the public, but also of business and government.

Why? Because a public garden may draw thousands of visitors year-round. Those visitors buy gas, rent a place to stay, go to lunch or dinner and visit shops nearby, too.

I am retired from a county-owned public garden in Wheaton, Maryland.  The 50-acre garden had about 25 employees, 300,000 visitors, 600 volunteers, classes in horticulture for adults and children, served field trip groups from local schools year-round, provided much of its own income (as opposed to taxpayer support) from enterprise activities and rentals, and was well supported by the Wheaton business community because it benefited them so much.

The county’s residents supported it too because they loved it and used it so much.  The county council referred to it as “the gem in the crown” of the county.

We can do as well here if we want to and try. The meeting room upstairs at Lewes Public Library is reserved for Saturday, Jan. 21, at 10 a.m. to gather those in support to work for founding a public botanical garden here in coastal Delaware.  We will need lots of specialized talents’ help to make this happen.

A concerted public action interest group could make things happen, especially if the membership is large enough to have political significance.

If you are well off or well endowed with land in this area, you might consider being our community’s “angel” and think of endowing a public garden effort with either a piece of land or money to perpetuate the memory of your good and charitable love for this community and its future forever.  I personally can’t think of a better way to be remembered.

If we don’t do it now or very soon, it may never happen in Sussex.  That would be a sad shame, a loss, for a public botanical garden would be a joy and blessing and community benefit to all of us.

Please come help!

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