OTISFIELD – A small perennial garden project that flourished into an international community garden and veterans memorial was dedicated Wednesday at the Otisfield Community School.

“Would you believe it started with a simple kindergarten perennial garden?” asked Principal Linda Park after welcoming nearly 200 students, veterans, staff, school officials and other guests to the dedication of the Otisfield Community Garden and Veterans Memorial project.

The yearlong project grew to include perennial and vegetable gardens, two greenhouses, a community garden and a veterans memorial.

Funding came from Oxford Community Building Program of the Maine Community Foundation, Healthy Oxford Hills, fundraisers and summer resident Ellen Solms, who provided the 28- by 48-foot greenhouse and the Max W. Beck Memorial established in memory of her deceased brother.

“These things just don’t happen, do they?” asked Superintendent Mark Eastman who officially dedicated the project as veterans from World War II through the Iraqi conflict listened. “They happen because of vision. Someone has a vision and they try to have everyone else buy into it.”

Park had the vision for the garden and memorial.

“This garden has become a global garden, not just a community garden. What a fitting tribute,” he said of the plot that included plantings by international campers at the nearby Seeds of Peace camp this summer.

Park said the project was completed because of many people who donated their time and of course, the students, many of whom were so excited about the garden project that they went home and started their own gardens.

One parent wrote to the principal saying, “My son has started his own garden at home. We’ve planted peas, beans, radishes, carrots and a tomato plant. This weekend we will plant pumpkins. Thank you for allowing him to help with the school gardens.”

Park said a student wrote to her about the garden club that head custodian Barbara Maguire and educational technician Lorette Ayotte supervise saying, “If it wasn’t for the garden club I wouldn’t be here.”

The community garden is on several acres of land around the school and includes fruit trees and raised garden boxes that have been adopted by community members and organizations in addition to the students. A granite stone memorial to all veterans of all wars was erected in the garden last spring as its centerpiece.

The monument was constructed by Richard Maguire & Son and a friend last spring and students planted carnations, lilies of the valley and other flowers in the monument, which is seen from the road through one of several grape arbors that parents built in the garden.

Students led the ceremony participants in the Pledge of Allegiance and “God Bless America” and “It’s a Grand Old Flag.”

Two marines from Company A of the 25th Marine Regiment in Topsham, who recently returned from service in Iraq, joined other veterans at the ceremony.

Former state Rep. Ted Heidrich of Oxford, a U.S. Marine veteran from the Korean War, introduced Adam Bartow of Auburn, international chairman of governmental studies of the National Society of Children of the American Revolution. Bartow is also the state secretary of the Maine Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

David Heidrich of Oxford, an aide to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, read a letter from the senator.

Solms was unable to attend the ceremony, but was represented by her husband.


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