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New Feet Within Our Garden Go

The Cape Cod Horticultural Society begins to merge with The Trustees of Reservations renewing Armstrong-Kelley Park.

The Armstrong–Kelley Park in Osterville is being adopted. In the spring of 2020, the Cape Cod Horticultural Society (CCHS), who have lovingly tended the park in the heart of Osterville for 93 years, voted to join forces with The Trustees of Reservations. The Trustees is the oldest land conservation nonprofit in the nation, dedicated to preserving natural and cultural spaces in Massachusetts since 1891. Deirdre Dow-Chase, president of the Horticultural Society, recalls the rainy day in October when CCHS first met with The Trustees to discuss the financial and administrative challenges facing the 8.5 acre property on Main Street.

Photos are provided by The Trustees of Reservations

“Our meeting was during a nor’easter in October, and The Trustees came–God love ‘em–in rain jackets, rain boots, umbrellas and hats,” Dow-Chase says. “At the end of the day, they told us they’d like to acquire the park. I’m glad we were all seated, because that was extraordinary.”

Dow-Chase emphasizes the dedication that CCHS has shown over the decades in creating this invaluable community resource. “The existing plan for the park was established in 1992–that is the plan that exists today,” she says. The merger between CCHS and The Trustees came from a desire to keep the mission of the park intact. Cindy Brockway, Director of Cultural Resources for The Trustees, acknowledges how important this next move is for the Osterville community. “We’ve worked really closely with the members of CCHS to build that vision together, and to make sure that it’s rooted in the history that they want to hand over to us–to keep it a beloved part of the community, and to deepen and strengthen the horticultural connections, public access, and opportunities for community engagement.”

The three year plan The Trustees have developed is dependent on fundraising efforts and engineering studies. “We are in what normally is called the Design Development Stage,” Brockway relates. “We’re hoping to have a more detailed topography survey done, and document where the specimen trees are in the park and where the wetlands are. Those are the kinds of things that we can take to this master plan.”

As far as the design details go, many aspects of the park are not going to change, but rather be reimagined. “The first stage is really centered on this idea of both welcoming everybody into the park safely, and then building out this gathering space in a bigger way,” Brockway says.

One of the more substantial projects will be the reconstruction of the driveway and parking area. “The idea is that we come off of Main Street, and pull off the driveway over to one edge of the property,” Brockway explains. “There’s a beautiful lawn that would expand into a larger central green–that would be a community meeting place. The pathways that allow pedestrians to come in from Main Street would be independent of the driveway for vehicles.”

Anne Smith-White, the South Shore Property Director for The Trustees, adds, “We’re also redesigning certain aspects of the park to follow universal design standards so that we’ll be able to accommodate all visitors in a way that isn’t possible right now.”

Dow-Chase is quite excited about the changes that will focus around what she calls the heart of the garden–the children’s garden. “The plan is to expand the Children’s Garden around Liam’s Train,” she explains. “They’re putting in meadows for the kids, and a healing garden that tells you about what plants are useful for your health. There is a big Hydrangea garden going in, and the pond is going to be at least twice the size, if not three times with a bridge over it so you can look down on it.”

Even though Covid-19 pushed back The Trustees’ development and fundraising plans a bit, the organization is still on track for administrative transition this fall. “We still welcome any community thoughts, or community input that anybody has,” Brockway emphasizes. “We’re still actively fundraising.”

In a much-deserved related development, The Trustees are bestowing the Charles Eliot Award upon the CCHS. “Every year, The Trustees recognize an individual or a group that has played a major role in land conservation in Massachusetts. This year, the Cape Cod Horticultural Society has been designated as Conservationists of the Year by The Trustees,” says Brockway. Dow-Chase beams with pride about this news noting, “It recognizes our many volunteers who worked the land for over 9 decades–that we actually kept this land to hand over to The Trustees to be protected forever.”

The Horticultural Society will remain as active as they have ever been in the actual maintenance of the park. “Right now, we meet on Thursday mornings from 8:30 to 11:30. We need gardeners, especially for the fall,” Dow-Chase explains. “Most of us are not going away, and some will serve on the property committee–we will just hand over our administrative responsibility and get back to doing what we love,” she affirms. “I’ll still feed the fish every day.”

To contribute to Armstrong-Kelley’s fundraising needs, contact Jenna Gomes (jgomes@thetrusteees.org).

Rachel Walman is the assistant editor of Cape Cod GARDEN.

Photos provided by The Trustees of Reservations.

*Author’s Note: As of Monday, November 1, 2021, Armstrong Kelley Park achieved their fundraising goals and officially became a landholding of The Trustees of Reservations. It is The Trustees’ 12th public garden and 128th property in Massachusetts. The Trustees is finalizing its master plan and will begin the refurbishing work early next year.



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