by Belle Bergner
Ever wonder how people decide what types of plants to put in certain places? Why put this bush here, or that perennial there? For Marina Lee, director of the Snail’s Crossing park project on the corner of Burleigh and Bremen streets, the decision-making process is largely done with the goal of bringing families together. “The only way we’re going to make a park safe is by bringing in adults,” says Lee. So how does planting a maple tree here and a daylilly there make a difference in attracting kids or adults to a park? It makes a big difference, actually. Adults are more likely to visit parks that are landscaped in a more aesthetically pleasing way than the traditional, visually limited, short-cropped grass. With more adults around, children will be more likely to come to a park to play, and parents will take advantage of the outdoor space as well. Thus, a self-sustaining neighborhood asset that inspires community pride and joy is born. Prior to the park’s revitalization, the lights were out and unwanted activities were occurring at night. Already, Lee says many people have been visiting the still-in-progress park. “Four nearby day-care centers use the park quite often,” she pointed out. Paulette Dembowiak, a neighbor and long-time volunteer at Kellner Greenhouses, assisted with the vegetation planning and donation acquisitions. “We tried to select only native Wisconsin trees, shrubs and perennials,” says Lee. “But in the end, we got so many donations to which we couldn’t say no. Over time, we’ll try to bring in more native plants to fill out some empty spots.” The park’s landscape design was planned to create a relaxing, colorful space for adults to sit on benches beneath maple, birch, or chestnut trees. They can sit and watch their little ones play, and dog owners can enjoy the park space with their canine companions. Two full truckloads of daylillies were planted in the fall and will provide colorful spring and early summer displays. Pink coneflowers and Russian sage will pick up the job of providing natural color when the lilies peter out, followed by the changing leaves of maple trees and river birch in the fall. The maple and birch were chosen to bring not only bright, fall colors, but also good shading from their foliage. Dembowiak hopes to gradually acquire more perennials that will fill in the color gaps between other species’ flowering times. Benches will be strategically placed to encourage adults to sit and relax, and richly patterned to invite children to play. Rows of Flowering Crab bushes, fun for the kids, will be lined up with Service Berry bushes for the birds. These will rest against willow fences, created and donated by Riverwest’s LaLune Furniture, also a park neighbor, which will create the feeling of a safe, enclosed space. Much of the foliage was donated by several businesses. Flagstone Landscape Design and Leafland, both in Cedarburg, and Germantown Greenhouses and W.E. Radke’s in Germantown were “incredibly generous in their donations to our park,” said Dembowiak. The diverse foliage will be richly complemented by Marina Lee’s color-rich sculpture creations. Snail’s Crossing is destined to become a vibrant jewel in our blossoming neighborhood for years to come, thanks to the vigilant and dedicated work of the park’s near neighbors.