By Allen Hamrick
At times, every person seems to have the world on their shoulders and needs a place to go and unwind, a place where it seems the outside world can’t reach in and snatch out what little bit of sanity you have left. With the issues today, and there are a plethora of them, there is nothing quite like a garden atmosphere where a person can breathe the fresh air as beautiful trees and flowers free your mind and return a smile on your face.
There is such a place now being born in Big Otter, the brain child of Dr. CJ Jones, fearless leader of the Big Otter Clinic/Community Care WV. She decided that there needed to be a place where people could come to take a walk or relax among the many shrubs, bushes, and flowers; an oasis that is both elegant and geometric in its design. Community Care of WVCEO Rick Simon and medical director Sarah Chounard jumped on the band wagon right away and started contributing ideas to the park. The WVU landscape program, with the help of professor Shan Jiang, was instrumental in the design process. Dr. Jones was able to procure three initial grants to get the path started and then pursued the larger grant through the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation to start the gazebo and the actual gardens.
Master gardener Suzie Legg, along with her husband Dennis, volunteered their time to the project doing most of the heavy work that was needed. Once the train got going, a host of volunteers including Deb Riley, Harry Riley, Diane and Rick Hannah have been there offering any assistance they could. Marie Haynes and her husband have provided labor and heavy equipment for the projects, as well. One of the big problems faced during the project was the ground that stayed wet most of the time and limited the park’s progress moving forward. Philip Linger came to the rescue by donating his time and equipment to install a French drain so that the grounds could dry up and plans could move forward. WVU brought their Country Roads Tour to visit this past week and offer their assistance. This offered the chance for some of the WVU faculty to break away from Morgantown and get out into more rural communities.
The park is still in its infancy but continues to grow as local artisans and volunteers blanket the area with rich vegetation and works of art that will enhance the experience of each visitor. There is already a feeling of sophistication and tranquility as chosen plants are neatly arranged in a design of restfulness. The park has a walkway that is roughly a quarter of a mile in length with a couple of benches along the way to relax on should you get overcome with the need to rest or simply to sit and get lost in the tranquility. The park will eventually have a pergola and gazebo sitting areas complete with a stream of water that will be a great place to sit and read or just release tension. It not only has a formal vibe, but with the different species of plants, the park will also offer a bucolic feel as well. Country flower gardens were often untamed and wild, but their perplexity often led to the expanse of an abundant array of color. So, the plans here will be a contained mix of formal versus countryside. When mature, the park will be the place to go for an afternoon get away that will allow for more than just a place for exercise but also a place for healing. Dr Jones is very appreciative of an amazing community that has come together as a unit to fulfill a dream that will ultimately enhance the lives of every visitor that enters through its proverbial gates.