Whidbey News-Times


Oak Harbor Garden Club keeps sprucing up community ‘one small area at a time’ in its 90th year

Whidbey News-Times Staff Reporter
April 19, 2013 · Updated 9:54 AM

Claire Reed, center, of the Oak Harbor Garden Club works with North Whidbey Park & Recreation District director Bill Walker and maintenance assistant Crystal Nelson on a beautification project in front of the pool in Oak Harbor Friday. / Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

When Claire Reed learned that the community pool in Oak Harbor needed a little help sprucing up its grounds, her ears perked up.

Bill Walker, director of the North Whidbey Park & Recreation District, had inquired with Sally Maylor, a friend and member of the Oak Harbor Garden Club, about how to tackle a barren garden bed in the pool’s front parking lot.

The beds were in dire need of care.

Maylor suggested he talk to Reed, the civic improvement chairwoman for the garden club.

He was glad he did.

“It turns out Claire has a little fondness in her heart here,” Walker said.



REED HAS deep roots in the parks district. While serving on the board of commissioners three decades ago, she was among those who worked to get the pool built.

John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool opened in 1983.

Thirty years later, Reed was back on the grounds, offering a $1,500 grant to beautify the pool’s garden beds on behalf of the Oak Harbor Garden Club.

The first five purple rhododendrons were planted Friday.

“It’s wonderful,” Reed said of the opportunity to help. “I remember how badly we wanted to have landscaping (in the 1980s).”

“We didn’t have any money.”



THE SHRUB and flower beautification project is the latest of many that the Oak Harbor Garden Club has tackled in the community over the years.

Oak Harbor Garden Club takes on a handful of projects every year, funding them through its plant sale in May, garden tour and tea in July and wreath sales in November and December.

Wreath sales is the biggest money-maker for the club, Reed said.

“A portion of the proceeds go to civic improvement,” Reed said. “Our mission is to improve our city one small area at a time.”



THIS IS a special time for the Oak Harbor Garden Club, which is celebrating its 90th year. The group is still going strong with more than 100 members, including Judith Juno, president of the Washington State Federation of Garden Clubs.

“Ninety years and still growing,” reads a slogan on a bag carried by Reed.

The club also teamed up with the city of Oak Harbor recently to help tidy up the Flintstone Park area along Bayshore Drive downtown.

Overgrown shrubs that were hiding the “Flintstone mobile” were cleared and 25 new plants and a bench installed.

The city helped with the heavy equipment and reinstalled a gravel road for the car, Reed said.

“We wanted that to be an inviting area for parents to sit while their children played in the car and we wanted the car to the center of attention,” Reed said.



AT THE POOL, all Walker was seeking was some sound advice for the garden bed, but he got much more.

The grant from the Oak Harbor Garden Club will provide shrubs and an assortment of flowers to beautify the bed, which is in the parking lot near the pool’s entrance.

Reed arrived Friday to guide Walker, park district maintenance supervisor Matt Morris and assistant Crystal Nelson.

But, before long, she was getting her hands dirty, too.

“Where do we go with these here, Claire?” Walker asked about the rhododendrons.

“I’ve got it all planned out,” she responded before calling for spacing of about 4 feet apart.

“In 10 years from now, we don’t want these growing into each other,” she said.



REED SAID that she believes some of the trees and shrubs on the grounds were planted by the late Hal Ramaley, the former elementary school principal known for doing beautification projects around Oak Harbor. A park downtown is named after him.

Oak Harbor Garden Club has focused much of its efforts redoing areas at Hal Ramaley Park, adding hundreds of shrubs, perennials, bulbs, fertilizer and mulch, Reed said.

The club installed a gazebo there in 2010.



DURING 2011, the club designed 26 planters for Pioneer Way and assisted in planting them.

The latest project at the pool is ongoing. Club members will be back in force on April 30 to add more shrubs and flowers.

The Oak Harbor Garden Club’s first fundraiser of the year its plant sale.

That sale will be from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 18 at the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce.



Reach Whidbey News-Times reporter Ron Newberry at 360-675-6611 (ext. 5070), or rnewberry@whidbeynewsgroup.com


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