Each year, throngs of visitors and locals visit the Azalea Park – for very good reason: It is truly the “jewel” of Brookings.
Azalea Park Foundation Board members Shirley Hyatt and Gil Kirk are among many volunteers who keep the park in pristine condition. Pilot file photo
But, what if, nearly 20 years ago, some people hadn’t walked the area – then littered with old tires, batteries tangled in a mass of brambles – and asked, “What if we cleaned this up, rescued the native Azaleas and planted a series of gardens? And what if we did it all without charging the city of Brookings a single penny?”
Luckily, that handful of people got behind their idea and made it happen. They became “The Azalea Park Foundation”, a non-profit organization. They took their plans to the city and made an agreement to tackle the job of creating a new part of the park. Funds came only through grants and donations.
Their dream was accomplished with the agreement that, once the gardens were completed, the volunteers of the Azalea Park Foundation would continue to maintain the 3 1/2 acres that had once been treated as a garbage dump. Volunteers laid sidewalks, planted hundreds of plants and trees, put in lawns and helped fund the building known as the “Snack Shack.” Finally, they erected a friendship statue in honor of those who joined hands and got the job done.
In the spring and summer, visitors come to Azalea Park to breathe in the sweet aroma of the ancient azaleas that grow exclusively on our coast. Armed with cameras, they capture the spectrum of color that dresses the hundreds of rhododendrons and other flowering trees.
In the winter, the city of Brookings puts on the Nature’s Coastal Holiday Light Show when much of Azalea Park sparkles with millions of tiny lights. Again, because of the efforts of a few dedicated volunteers, hundreds turn out to enjoy this magical event.
So, here we are. Board members include Treasurer, Donna Maris; Secretary Norma Fitzgerald; Gil Kirk, Brian Scott and Deena Longa. Board members meet as needed, at least four times a year. We plan for annual fundraising letters and pitches to families to honor the park and use it with awareness of how precious the park is.
With spring just ahead, we will be clearing out old debris and leaves. We always lose a number of plants to the season, frost, and damage from traffic, which we clear out and replace with deer-proof and drought-proof plants. Pruning and feeding take place in the early spring and late winter.
Now, the Azalea Park Foundation’s small army is asking for your help. You don’t have to create a new garden; that’s already been done. You simply have to pull a few weeds or sweep a sidewalk or trim a bush or two. The Azalea Park Foundation will provide all the tools, a coffee and dessert along with lots of thanks. In the spring, summer, and fall, our work parties (watch for dates to be announced) are held every other Saturday morning from 9 am to 12. Please come out and support this vital endeavor.
And remember, next time you walk through Azalea Park, that it was not always like this. Someone dug that hole and planted that tree; someone cleared away the brambles and saved that precious native azalea. Someone made this place for you and your children’s children to enjoy. Without you, the public, there would be no garden. It grew from a vision; a desire to create and maintain something beautiful. Ask yourself, isn’t that worth a little of your time?
If you would like to contribute, your donation is tax deductible.
Make your check payable to The Azalea Park Foundation, P.O. Box 6876, Brookings, OR 97415.
Shirley Hyatt is president of the Azalea Park Foundation Board of Directors.