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In Third Year, Friends of Easton Public Gardens Kick into Higher Gear

Many projects are on tap for the "Friends" this year.

 

If you happen to drive past the corner of Foundry Street and Poquonticut Avenue this weekend, you might see a group of people weeding, raking and cleaning on the side of the road in an overgrown park.

The volunteers are the Friends of Easton Public Gardens and the park is Swift Park.

It's the group's latest focus in an overall mission that aims to restore, upkeep, and educate Easton residents about the many outdoor treasures that the town has to offer.

"We’re proud," said Nancy Cohenno, the organization's treasurer. "We love this town. The things that the Town cannot accomplish with keeping the town beautiful, we’re trying to fill that void."

The group was started in 2009 by Karen Cacciapuoti and Gloria Freitas-Steidinger.

Cacciapuoti, now the acting Vice President, said the restoration of one of the town's centerpiece landscapes, Frederick Olmsted's Rockery, helped inspire her to create the group.

"I served on the Historical Commission for a number of years and was very interested in historical preservation within the town, education and community gratitude," Cacciapuoti said. "I’m an interior designer by trade so I work with architects and landscapers on a regular basis. I was naturally drawn to landscape as a focus. The rockery is a historical landmark in town that came up in frequent conversation for the Historical Commission."

The "Friends" was created in 2009 as a nonprofit organization as a way to help preserve and maintain places like the Rockery. When the CPC provided funds for the Queset Gardens behind the , the "Friends" were quick to assist in that project.

"When we became more visibly into the community’s public eye is when we teamed up with the library to have a celebration of that garden," Cacciapuoti said.

Upkeep of both public spaces is ongoing, she said. Just last week, volunteers were hard at work pulling weeds and cleaning up trash at the Rockery.

But with membership and officers in place, members are excited to eye different projects.

"In our first two years we had to deal with a lot of the administrative instances – working with the board, becoming 501C3 eligible, drafting bylaws and all of the administrative things," Cacciapuoti said.

"This is the first year that we have serious significant goals that we have been able to pursue and really take action on, which has been quite nice this year. We’re enjoying it."

Swift Park, where the group will be this weekend, is just one of the many projects on tap.

The group adopted the Short Street Cemetery and planted a dogwood and lilies that are beginning to show this spring. A focus has also been directed to the where some unknown treasures lie, Cacciapuoti said.

The group advocated for $120,900 worth of masonry repairs for the building in the form of Community Preservation funds, which the CPC has recommended in this year's Town Meeting Warrant.

The grounds also provide an example of why the group hopes to not only help preserve and maintain landscapes, but also educate the public.

"It’s not just about us living in a town and thinking we want it to be pretty," Cacciapuoti said. "But, we really stress the importance of education so that people appreciate and understand the value in it, whether it be historic, the fact that its untouched or whether it has been formed so that things such as the paving over of the rose garden don’t ever happen again."

A sunken rose garden on the Town Office property, originally developed by landscape architect Harriett Risley Foote (who also created the landscape design for the Ford Estate in Michigan), was paved over when Spring Hill Estate was created in the 1980's.

The "Friends" hope to create a tribute garden nearby "that would draw people’s attention back to what used to be," Cacciapuoti said.

Also this year, the "Friends" are teaming up with t, , and to create the "Passport to Nature."

The purpose is to "provide a fun approach to foster the understanding and love of nature" for children.

A partnership between the many groups in town is something the "Friends" are emphasizing.

"There’s no good tie between everyone and we’d like to take that spot and try to keep our fingers on everything that’s going on around town," said Todd Sandstrum, the President.

Sandstrum is also looking to work with Boy scouts in town to beautify Easton's . The end result could see a memorial honoring those who have served for the town of Easton.

"The idea for the memorial one would be a much bigger impact long term," he said. "It would be a brick area along the flag pole with potentially either a single marker stone listing everyone or we talked about taking each brick and engraving each brick so if you had served in the department for 'X' amount of years, your name would be engraved in a brick and then the servicemen’s bell which is at Station One would be moved from Station One to Station Three for a ceremony."

The group is looking to assist in other public works projects, including the creation of a raised garden at , and the "Adopt a Public Space" program - a town project where individuals or groups can adopt and maintain traffic islands and town-owned areas. The Board of Selectmen agreed to support the idea at a meeting last month.

While enthusiasm and ambition aren't hard to come by, the "Friends" are always searching for more funds and more members. Those who join and pay a $25 membership fee receive discounted prices from , and Blueview Nursery.

Cacciapuoti said that while work is non-stop, it's rewarding to be part of the organization.

"Like any organization, you have uphill battles but it’s a fun hike," she said. "There's always something to learn and there’s always something to share, but its really a great group of people who work well together."

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