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Traffic ‘Island Two’ Makeover Conjures A Miniature Woodland Scene



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Travelers passing by the corner of Queen Street and Glover Avenue in recent weeks have been witnessing the landscaping version of a makeover that was recently completed there — to great effect.

“Island Two” is a “teeny little space” with a “larger story,” said Town & Country Garden Club of Newtown member Jane Sharpe. Club members and many other helping hands transformed the small patch of land at the busy neighborhood intersection during the dog days of August and into early September.

According to Ms Sharpe, a $1,000 grant from the National Garden Club, plus some imagination, got the project started.

Club members agreed that “the island needed improvements,” said Peggy Townsend, September 18, while onsite. Glancing at the revamped space, she said, “We wanted a cohesive island,” which involves a woodland theme and a sculpture.

Since the changes, the island’s name has expanded this year to Island Two, A Woodland Garden, Ms Sharpe said. The primary team behind the project in includes co-captains Ms Sharpe and Ms Townsend, Moe Powell, Kathryn Simonds, Gail Friedman, Lina Williams, and Barbara O’Connor.

Ms Townsend said, “Jane and I dreamed up this woodland,” and as more plantings are still to come, the space “will only get better.” She explained that the triangular strip of land “had been flat, and Jane said, ‘It needs mounds; we’ll just order some dirt,’ and we did.”

The island is a “peaceful scene, and fun,” and considering the intersection’s congestion, it gives drivers “something to look at,” Ms Townsend said.

With the native setting in mind, club members additionally employed xeriscaping — the process of landscaping or gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water from irrigation.

“It’s native plants that require less water,” Ms Townsend said.

“I was happy to see them use a type of xeriscape landscaping with native and low watering techniques in the planting,” said Deputy Director of Planning, Land Use, and Emergency Management Rob Sibley. “Seasonal considerations for use, growth, and maintenance were all well-integrated into this final design. I appreciate all the volunteers which make this type of project successful.”

Brief e-mails to The Newtown Bee during the summer offered a glimpse of the work-in-progress.

From Ms Sharpe on August 6: “Yesterday we had masons put in a crushed stone path and flagstone paving stones on Island Two (as we call it). It’s getting closer to being the woodland area we envision. Some ground covers will be next, in the fall.”

And on August 12: “As promised, the Garden Club has finished another stage of the island re-design…” Ms Sharpe said.

She affirmed that members captured hundreds of photos as the work progressed.

The Town & Country Garden Club of Newtown also tends the patches of landscaping and color at the head of Queen Street at Church Hill Road, and end of Glover Avenue where it meets Main Street.

Flintstone Gearbox

A small walkway crosses the island, taking visitors from a bench facing Glover Avenue to a sculpture, named “Flintstone Gearbox,” by local artist Ethan Currier, which is a new feature facing Queen Street.

The only other art in the borough is a “war memorial,” said Ms Townsend, referring to the Soldiers and Sailors monument on Main Street.

“This piece, made of grindstones, inspires the imagination,” she said. “It’s abstract, natural.”

Ethan and his father, Tim Currier, arrived to install the sculpture on September 18.

A base stone that was easily several hundred pounds dangled from a hoist as he worked for several minutes maneuvering it just right. Once his father, operating the hoist, lowered the heavy base, Ethan reassembled the rest of his sculpture. His stone sculpture now welcomes visitors as they step onto the island.

Club members had seen pictures of Mr Currier’s art, and “we loved it,” Ms Sharpe said. “Of course, we picked the best.” “Flintstone Gearbox” is an existing piece that had previously adorned the center of a pond at Sticks and Stones Farm on Huntingtown Road, owned by Ethan’s father, Tim Currier.

Barbara O’Connor said, “I love the name Ethan gave his artwork; I think it’s the perfect name. Extremely appropriate.”

Mr Currier received payment for his artwork, thanks to additional grant funds, “but it’s worth quite a bit more,” than the money he received, said Ms Sharpe.

The award came through in mid-September. The club received $2,500 for art “with the support of the Department of Economic and Community Development, (DECD) which also receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency,” according to the DECD. Funding is through the state’s Regional Initiative Grant Program. Two private donors from the garden club contributed additional funds.

Making The Magic

In a write-up she had prepared for club members and later shared with The Bee, Ms Sharpe described Island Two as “the sleepy traffic island between Glover Avenue and Queen Street,” saying the location “went into a tizzy this year.”

Her write-up details the project: First, a team of seven women, members of the Town & Country Garden Club, won $1000 from the National Garden Club to make over the island. With that money spent, the island now “has a new look,” Ms Sharpe wrote.

The trees were “high-trimmed, existing shrubs were moved and shaped, all grass was dug up and removed,” she said. The park bench was “repositioned for the Labor Day Parade viewing,” and the Town & Country Garden Club sign received a new location, “and then, strenuously, 16 yards of topsoil were added,” Ms Sharpe said.

“The concept was to use native plants that require less care and watering. Decision-making on the shrubs and plants, the terrain, and progression of work were planned by the entire team: Gail Freidman, Barbara O’Connor, Moe Pershinsky, Kathryn Simonds, and Lina Williams, plus co-captains Jane Sharpe and Peggy Townsend.”

Also involved were Roo Simonds and Marcus Sharpe, who “consistently helped with planting and adding more than 40 bags of mulch, with Marcus occasionally threatened to be voted off the island.”

According to Ms Sharpe, “Watering was endless, with each team member given two weeks of duty.” Hoses were set up at a Glover Avenue residence, she said, and a Borough of Newtown member “offered her water access free.”

In August, a crushed stone path, with metal edging, was added, plus a flagstone patio by the park bench. The stone bench was bleached, sanded, and painted in time for the Labor Day Parade.

“Meanwhile,” Ms Sharpe wrote, Peggy Townsend, with help from Ms Sharpe and Kathryn Simonds, applied for an award for an art feature, seeking funds from the Connecticut Office of the Arts.

Several thousand dollars of in-kind donations also came from Wilder Tree Service (trimming), Lenahan Land Clearing (topsoil), Planters’ Choice (shrubs), with labor and equipment also from the Newtown Police Department and the Newtown Highway Department. The masonry was paid with help from the club and the Borough of Newtown. In the future, the island will be more “wooded,” with additional plantings this fall and next spring.

The team spent the original $1,000 award from the National Garden Club, and club Treasurer Joy Kopesky “notified the team… that they are now over budget, spending a total of $1004.”

The Club has maintained the three traffic islands in the center of town for more than two decades. The Borough of Newtown supports this effort by paying for the plantings. The Island Two project was much larger in scope than the usual island efforts, she said.

Ethan Currier

Based on information pulled from online sources, Mr Currier is a self-taught artist who has been creating sculptures out of stone since 2001.

He spent his childhood and young adult years immersed in nature, living on boats and traveling around the world. Early on, he learned to work with his hands using basic materials. Today, Mr Currier is a recognized artist with sculptures in private collections and public spaces in more than 20 countries.

His sculptures are rocks brought to life by way of rods and fixative, mostly in mid-point scale.

His range of work includes — at one end — a 6,000-pound granite stegosaurus, and at the other, a series of granite puzzles and candle holders in river rock.

Recently, he began spending time in the Pacific Northwest and has created a studio in Bainbridge Island, Wash. Ethan’s art is also displayed throughout the grounds at Sticks & Stones Farm.

Island Two as it appears in a Google search, prior to recent changes.
The Town & Country Garden Club of Newtown’s Island Team on the bench are, left to right, Jane Sharpe, Peg Townsend, and Moe Powell; and at rear are Kathryn Simonds, Gail Freidman, and Lina Williams. Barbara O’Connor, also a team member, is not present. —Photo Courtesy Town & Country Garden Club
Local artist Ethan Currier positions a base stone to his artwork, “Flintstone Gearbox,” now standing at the intersection of Glover Avenue and Queen Street. His father, Tim Currier, operated the truck suspending the stone on September 18. Town & Country Garden Club member Peggy Townsend, left, takes his picture. —Bee Photo, Bobowick
Town & Country Garden Club members provided this image of the island’s new look, which includes a walkway through native plantings.
The traffic island’s bench has been relocated to a new position facing Glover Avenue, and a stone sculpture now stands on the base, left. —Photo Courtesy Town & Country Garden Club.
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