Reading Garden Project

The NGC has always been active in preserving the natural beauty of our community. Our timeline highlights the many and varied projects our members have sponsored, developed and maintained over the last ten decades.

From the beautification of the front landscape of Newport Hospital, to designing and maintaining Memorial Park, new shrubs and flowers around a filling station at One-Mile Corner, and the replanting of the garden at the Norman Bird Sanctuary to the removal of billboards around town, NGC, working with town officials and business owners, has persevered with great results.

Our civic work continues with the gift to the City of Newport and the Newport Public Library of a Reading Garden in Aquidneck Park.

The picture above shows the area where the Reading Garden will be built. This area is in Aquidneck Park to the left of the front door of the Newport Public Library and down the hill from the Edward King Senior Center. This picture will be updated as the project continues.

Centennial Reading Garden

The Beginning

Plans for our centennial celebration began in 2013. The Centennial Committee asked the members to submit ideas for a civic project that would benefit the community. Twelve wonderful suggestions were presented to the entire membership to evaluate and finally select.

Aquidneck Park, off Spring Street and next to the Newport Public Library, was the winner. This is a central space in town with a heavily traveled road on one side. Two large copper beech trees had just died and been removed leaving the park with no character or charm. It was a yard waiting to become a garden.

After some research, the idea of an “outdoor reading room” was introduced to the membership. Unanimously approved by the members, the next steps involved partnering with the City of Newport, who oversee the park, and the library.

So began the journey to the creation of our Centennial Reading Garden.

On September 8, 2014, the following proposal for the Reading Garden was presented to the Newport City Council for approval. All parties approved with a vote of full support.

Centennial Reading Garden: Proposal Presented to the Newport City Council 

September 8, 2015

To commemorate the Newport Garden Club’s Centennial (1914-2014), the club proposes to make a gift of a professionally designed and landscaped Centennial Reading Garden to the City of Newport and the Newport Public Library.

The club has worked for more than a year with Scott Wheeler (Building and Grounds Supervisor/Tree Warden, City of Newport), Regina Slezak, (Director of the Newport Public Library) and the Board of Directors of the Newport Public Library to develop a plan. The plan received a unanimous vote to move forward from the Board of Directors of the Newport Public Library (May 17, 2014).

The plan has been reviewed and recommended for approval by The Tree and Open Space Commission of the City of Newport. The vote was unanimous (August 26, 2014). The plan has also been endorsed by the Edward King House Senior Center.

Concept of the Centennial Reading Garden:

Across the country libraries have been extending the “walls” of their buildings by adding reading gardens adjacent to their facilities. These areas include shaded sitting areas for reading and/or other library related activities. Libraries are able to throw Wi-Fi signals into the area and offer free Wi-Fi as another service to library patrons or park visitors. The Newport Public Library has already increased their Wi-Fi signal and is prepared to offer this benefit to visitors of the Centennial Reading Garden.

The landscape proposal for the Centennial Reading Garden for the Newport Public Library has been designed with sensitivity to the original Frederick Law Olmsted plan as well as Lucinda Brockaway’s 1999 recommendations for Aquidneck Park. It has also taken into consideration the need for low-maintenance plantings which will mature to an appropriate size. The plan includes benches where patrons and staff can enjoy the beauty of the park, use the services of the library, relax or mingle.

The plan centers around a landscaped island located to the left of the library entry on the parking lot side (East). There are also ADA compliant walkways up to the Edward King Senior Center and a walkway connecting the island to the southwest corner of the park at Spring and Bowery Streets. These pathways are reminiscent of the gentle walkways in the original Olmsted design for the park. The pathways would have steel edging, use a compacted surface of stabilized bluestone dust, and provide visitors walking up to the Edward King Senior Center with a safer means to reach the east side of the park. Currently pedestrians walk in the driveway shared with cars exiting the library parking lot. As the walkway would be ADA accessible, this would also provide a safer route for the disabled and those with strollers.

The Centennial Garden would take advantage of two other programs offered by the City of Newport to enhance the Reading Garden. The first would be the City of Newport’s Memorial/Commemorative Bench Program where citizens can underwrite benches. It has also been suggested that the Reading Garden may be able to obtain some trees through the City of Newport’s subsidized tree program.

These plans have all been professionally designed by Landscape Architect, Pam Rodgers of Verde Designs of Newport (Licensed Landscape Architect in RI).

Cost

Newport Garden Club members have already committed $25,000 to the initial phase which includes the island and pathways surrounding the island. The club has raised an additional $23,000, which is also earmarked for the project for a total of cash on hand in excess of $48,000. If the gift is approved by the City of Newport, the club will continue to raise additional funds through grants and gifts to complete the additional pathways as well as “Wish List” items identified by the Library and the Building and Grounds Department of the City of Newport. These items include the removal and burial of overhead power lines (the only such lines which currently exist in a public park in the city) and the installation of historically appropriate lighting.

Maintenance

The Newport Garden Club agrees to work in cooperation with the City of Newport and the Newport Public Library to design and install a low-maintenance garden which will be sustainable. It is the intention of the Newport Garden Club to remain actively involved as a steward for the Centennial Reading Garden.

Patricia Fernandez,  Immediate past president, Newport Garden Club

 

Chronology: 2013-2015

March 2013: A Centennial Committee was formed and members were asked to submit suggestions for a civic project to celebrate Newport Garden Club’s upcoming centennial year. Twelve proposals were submitted.

June 2013: Members evaluated each proposal and selected Aquidneck Park in Newport as a location for a centennial project.

July 2013: The idea of an “outdoor reading room” was introduced.

August 19, 2013: NGC Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve the creation of an “outdoor reading room” next to the Newport Public Library in Aquidneck Park, and to commit $25,000 of NGC funds to the project. Newport Garden Club will work with the City of Newport and the Newport Public Library to develop a plan.

October 2013: Landscape architect, Pamela Rodgers RLA, ASLA of Verde Gardens, Newport, RI was retained to create a low maintenance garden that is ADA accessible, and sensitive to the historic elements of the park.

November 2013: The Centennial Committee collaborated with Scott Wheeler, Building and Grounds Supervisor/Tree Warden, City of Newport, Regina Slezak, Director of the Newport Public Library, and landscape architect, Pamela Rodgers, to establish criteria and priorities for the garden. It was decided that the “outdoor reading room” would be called the Centennial Reading Garden.

February 4, 2014: Project and funding approved unanimously by membership.

April 2014: The proposed Centennial Reading Garden won the support of the Building and Grounds Committee of the Newport Public Library.

May 17, 2014: The proposed Centennial Reading Garden won the unanimous approval of the Board of Directors of the Newport Public Library.

May 30, 2014: The NGC Estate Sale of the Century raised $21,000 to provide additional funding for the Centennial Reading Garden.

August 4, 2014: The Board of the Edward King House Senior Center, located in Aquidneck Park, offered enthusiastic support of the Centennial Reading Garden.

August 26, 2014: The proposed Centennial Reading Garden won the unanimous approval of the Board of Directors of the Newport Tree and Open Space Commission.

October 8, 2014: Pat Fernandez presented our proposal, a gift of a Centennial Reading Garden to the City of Newport and the Newport Public Library, at a meeting of the Newport City Council and gained the full support, and unanimous approval of the Council. [Refer to article in the Newport Daily News, October 9, 2014.]

October 20, 2014: Puffy Meikle assembled a group of members who have a comprehensive knowledge of horticulture to assist with the selection and placement of plantings.

October 20, 2014: The NGC committee mentioned above met with Anne Shepherd, the new Director of the Newport Public Library.

January 12, 2015: Pamela Rodgers delivered the construction documents, detailed plans that addressed the layout, grading, planting, lighting, furnishings, signage and other site details.

This shows the placement of the Reading Garden and the pathways up to the Edward King Senior Center and down to the corner of Bowery Street and Spring Street.

This is an aerial view of Aquidneck Park where the Reading Garden will be built.