Volunteers hope city garden grows another 100 years

Despite challenges, volunteers who tend to Way’s Garden, a park at Maynard and West Fourth streets, which celebrated its 100th anniversary Friday, are viewing coming days ahead with rose-colored glasses.

“We’re looking forward to the next 100 years,” said Bob Espisito, president of the Way’s Garden Commission, a volunteer organization that oversees all aspects of the park, which is kept mowed and weeded by the city Streets and Parks Department.

It is a place that one can go, sit on a bench, walk the pathways lined with flowering and towering trees and forget about the stresses of life – if all but for a few minutes.

The garden, named after J. Roman Way, who lived in a house where the Thomas T. Taber Museum now sits across the street from the park, was given by the millionaire to the city in 1913. A stone monument signifies the generous donation and can be seen along the pathway closest to West Fourth Street.

On Friday, more than 900 flowers were hand-planted in the mulch, on a circle at the flag pole by Williamsport Community Garden Club volunteers. The flowers are arrayed to form a circle of red, white and blue – a patriotic planting in time for Flag Day and July 4.

The species known as Ageratum, a blue flower, was positioned with Wave petunias, the red and white flowers.

Legally, the group continues to plug away as a city ordinance stipulates that a Way’s Garden Commission be appointed to care for the property, Espisito said.

Such efforts, however, will require donations, he said.

Volunteers can do their part as the garden embarks on its next century of life and adds to the creation, including 100 foot tall shade trees, a few of which remained since Way, who lived from 1848 through 1935, was alive, according to Espisito.

To allow the garden to grow and design to flourish as it enters the next chapter of existence, Espisito said the commission is seeking assistance from the public.

It has brought in Derek Kalp, a landscape architect with Pennsylvania State University, who has a private landscaping business, and Jeff Dice, a university forester to review what trees are withstanding the test of time. Knowledgeable groups such as Master Gardeners and Preservation Williamsport also are added their input to figure out what direction the commission needs to take, Espisito said.

“We’re thinking of a Victorian design, which is under development,” he said. That will require monetary donations.

One of the aesthetic enhancements might be a fountain, he said. When several groups sat down to submit their design of the park, the consensus seemed to be inclusion of a fountain, he said.

Treasured and cherished photographs also are welcome.

“We’re looking for anyone who has photographs of themselves in the park,” he said. “It might be a prom date 50 years ago.”

Sarmite Judson, one of those digging in the dirt Friday, has created a wall hanging cotton quilt, complete with flowers of predominately pink and green colors on the front half and half of a flower with its pedals falling off on the back.

Next month, the Bald Eagle Art Show has its annual event at the site while Trinity Episcopal Church holds its strawberry festival nearby.

“Part of our goal is to keep this beautify and beloved garden gift going with additional design aspects,” Espisito said. “Part of it is to make it a little more maintenance free.”