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Mar 16, 2011 10:53 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Garden Club Plants Idea To Line Agawam Park With Cherry Trees

Mar 16, 2011 10:53 AM

The Southampton Garden Club has planted an idea to line Agawam Park, Southampton Village’s centerpiece, with cherry trees, in an effort to enhance the park’s war memorials and to beautify the open space.

While village officials have reacted warmly to the plan, some residents, including members of the village’s Commission on Veterans Patriotic Events, have raised concerns that the trees might obstruct and detract from the monuments—a sacrosanct place, they say.

Linda Fraser, a member of the Garden Club, said the planting—dubbed the Lake Agawam Cherry Tree Project—would attract visitors and showcase the World War I memorial, in a pitch of the plan to the Village Board last Thursday, March 10.

Meghan Benedict, a landscape designer and Garden Club member, has plotted the trees so that the focal point would be the memorial and Lake Agawam behind it, according to Ms. Fraser. The club envisions planting 16 Sargent cherry trees. Eight trees would stand along the eastern side of the park, and the other eight would line the western perimeter, near Pond Lane. They would be 10 feet tall when planted and have a growth maturity of 20 feet in that environment, she told the board. There still would be room for the bandshell that is used on certain festive occasions, such as concerts in the park, she added.

Village officials have been seeking to restore the timeworn World War I monument on the northern shore of Lake Agawam through a renovation project, for which it has been encouraging the public to donate funds. Ms. Fraser said the village’s plan to restore the memorial helped inspire her selection of Agawam Park for the planting.

The idea for planting trees in the park was sparked by a broader tree-replanting effort by garden clubs nationwide, the Garden Club of America’s centennial campaign, Ms. Fraser said. The club would donate the trees to the village as a gift and would ensure that enough funds were raised for the project, she said. The type of tree was chosen in part to complement two cherry trees that already stand closer to the lake’s edge. Since cherry trees also adorn the areas around the war monuments in Washington, D.C., the choice seemed especially suitable, Ms. Fraser said.

The trees would also provide beauty throughout the year, she said. “You’ll have this beautiful profusion of pink cherry blossoms in the spring. In the summer, you’ll have this beautiful green, verdant canopy, and in the fall you’ll have a bronze-red autumnal look to the leaves,” she told the board, cheerily.

Mayor Mark Epley said he thinks the cherry trees would be beautiful, but he cautioned about the need for sensitivity toward veterans. “I think it would be beautiful, I really do,” the mayor, a veteran himself, said this week. “But I don’t want to insult the veterans. I know how they’re sensitive about the use of Agawam Park.”

The mayor said this week he was planning to discuss the proposal with Bill Frankenbach, the chairman of the commission.

But Mr. Frankenbach this week said he has already made up his mind.

“I’m against it,” Mr. Frankenbach said on Tuesday, calling from a vacation in St. Croix. “You’re obstructing a beautiful view from the Veterans Hall. If they’re 10 feet now, they’re going to be 20 feet in a few years. You won’t be able to see the memorial. You won’t be able to see the flags. You won’t be able to look across at the beautiful water. I don’t think it’s going to be right. It’s a veterans park, you know.”

The Veterans Memorial Hall in the Southampton Cultural Center sits on Pond Lane directly across from the park. According to the mayor, the park itself is not classified as a memorial park.

Other members of the committee echoed Mr. Frankenbach’s sentiments.

“I don’t like the idea. I think it’s totally unnecessary,” said Susan Steinke, the secretary of the commission and one of Mr. Frankenbach’s daughters. She said the trees would detract from the park’s beauty. “When cherry trees bloom, they’re absolutely gorgeous, but when the cherry blossoms fall, it would be more maintenance, because it makes a mess.”

Alice Schneider, a village resident and member of the commission, praised the “beautiful work” that the Garden Club has done around the village and thought it was very nice of the club to donate the trees, but said, “I would think that the memorial should not be prettified. I think it should be stark, because war is not pretty.”

Ms. Schneider said she walked the perimeter of the park on Tuesday afternoon to consider the potential of cherry trees from various angles. She suggested that other areas for the trees be considered, such as near the O’Connell Drive parking lot, adjacent to the restrooms.

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"The other eight would line the eastern perimeter near Pond Lane"?????
I thought Pond Lane was on the western side of Agawam Park. Has somebody moved things around in my absense?
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Mar 12, 11 12:30 PM
Yikes! Of course it's the other way around. The article has been corrected to reflect that.
By Bill Sutton, Managing Editor (117), Westhampton Beach on Mar 13, 11 9:24 AM
Nooooooooo!
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Mar 12, 11 10:54 PM
I think it would be great if the Garden Club would be able to do this project. They have done nothing but great improvements with Southampton Village and their eye for beautification has been for the best. Good luck and I hope that this idea goes forward to enhance the WWI momument and thank our veterans for their service and besides also making this area a warm and appreciative destination.
By hamptonfoody (9), southampton on Mar 14, 11 10:30 AM
1 member liked this comment
I wish the Garden club would do something truly useful like landscaping the entrances to the village rather than always wanting to add to what's done. The area by the diner looks so forlorn and forgotten, as does the entrance at North Sea Road. Hampton Bays Beautification has done such an excellent job with its entrances. I'd like to see someone here follow suit.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Mar 19, 11 9:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
Amen to that, Goldenrod. As to the North Sea Road area.... that would take some truely imaginative and knowledgeable thinking as well as $$$$$$$$$$$. Is the Garden Club up to that project? i hope so.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Mar 19, 11 9:40 AM
I would think they would want to donate money to repair the memorial. Cherry Trees require spraying. the organic sprays will not do the trick. They will attract more geese and other birds which will mean more bird poop. These trees will only cause problems. The kids will climb the trees. Who will maintain them? Leave our park alone.
By local (106), north sea on Mar 19, 11 7:27 PM
1 member liked this comment