In the mid-’70s, Lake Highlands’ Merriman Park Estates neighborhood was a little patch of nothing. Houses were just going up, and where green and flowering things should have been, plots of dirt stared new residents in the face.
It was, says longtime resident Marsha Hogue, a “daunting task.” A task, she adds, she thought they all should share.
So Hogue started the Merriman Park Garden Club. Recently, the club – still hard at work – celebrated 30 years of beautifying the neighborhood.
Through the decades, the club’s focus has changed – from making sure yards were, as Hogue puts it, “aesthetically pleasing,” to taking on bigger community projects, such as the maintenance of nearby R.P. Brooks Park.
The park, says Laura Tyree, an original garden club member who has lived in Merriman Park since 1972, is really the club’s legacy.
“We plant and weed a lot of things that are down there,” Tyree says. “We keep it looking beautiful.”
Today, there are 26 members in the garden club, and Tyree says three-quarters of them have been members for more than a decade. Though there isn’t much turnover in Merriman Park, the club occasionally receives new members, most of whom are women, she says.
“Men have come, but they’ve never stayed,” she says. “We’re open to having them, of course. In fact, the older we get, the more we’d like them to come and dig for us.”
Members pay $15 in annual dues. That money, along with funds raised from recycling bins at Kingsley Square shopping center, benefit the club’s projects. The group also holds an annual pansy sale and other small fund-raisers.
But plants aren’t the only things that have grown as a result of the longtime club, Tyree says.
“When you’ve been together that long, you kind of become a family. It’s your neighbors in there, so you are interested in what’s going on in their lives.”
Hogue, whose schedule now keeps her from being active in the club, says she’s not surprised it’s still going after all these years, “because the community was strong,” she says, adding that the green spaces were one of the reasons she and her husband settled there.
As for those still digging and planting in those green spaces after so many years?
“They’re doing fabulous work,” she says. “They really are.”