By Dan Rankin
If, in the past year or two, you’ve found yourself admiring the flower boxes on the Queen Street bridge, you’re not alone. But you may not have known exactly who it was that deserved the credit for placing the flowers there and tending to them. Well, that would be the somewhat recently conceived St. Marys Beautification Committee, which was started three years ago by former St. Marys Mayor Gerry Teahen.
According to one of the committee’s current members, Tony Sinko, Teahen started the group to address the needs of various local gardens on Town property and to take some of the pressure off of Town staff.
Since Teahen moved to Exeter, Sinko, along with members Jane Graham and Betty Anne Mustard and a team of volunteers, have kept up the flower boxes on Queen Street bridge, as well as the Millennium Gardens across from the LCBO, the Rotary Reading Garden around the St. Marys Public Library, some of the gardens along the river walkway, and other flowerbeds around town.
This year, due to the construction taking place on Queen Street’s bridge and at the request of the Town, the 18 boxes that have hung there for the previous two summers have been spread around to several other parts of St. Marys, including the town entrance signs and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, Sinko said. They hope to have them back on the bridge in 2017, he added.
Sinko commented on how the flower box project has grown over the years. “In 2014 it wasn’t as nice,” he said. “It’s trial and error. In the first year we planted them ourselves, and it took so long for them to mature that, by that time, the season was over.”
They received some helpful tips from Grey Haven Nursery in Londesborough, where they buy the plants, and in 2015 the committee arranged to have the flowers started early, indoors. “When we put them up they were in full bloom,” he said. “That made a huge difference.”
When the committee learned that the Rotary Club was only able to do upkeep at its Rotary Reading Garden near the library once or twice a year, “I asked if they would mind if we came in,” Sinko said. “Now we do the weeding and weed-eating, stuff like that, and we’ve added a couple of plants.”
Along the river walkway, they’ve helped arrange for new businesses or groups to adopt gardens when other businesses have had trouble keeping them up, Sinko added.
2016 saw Town Council provide a grant of $2,500 to the committee for the first time, Sinko said. But, the flowers and the maintenance they require aren’t cheap, and they still rely on fundraising dollars and volunteer work. The group generally meets once a week, on Tuesday evenings, to work on projects.
If you’re interested in donating time or money towards the St. Marys Beautification Committee, call Sinko at 519-284-3748, Jane Graham at 519-284-3420, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.