It was Larry Grant, supervisor of the Hawthorne Utilities Office that shared some blunt truths about the maintenance of the rose garden, whose fate is not only being discussed but may be decided upon.

“The existing garden club would be facing some obstacles should they decide to take over the rose garden. It is best to explain that in the garden’s current condition, with no one properly caring for it, the weeds and overgrown grass have been robbing the nutrients and water from the roses. There was a large portion recently weeded by some of the ladies in this group (Victory Garden Club), but it will surprise you to hear about the watering history we’ve encountered over the years.”

Grant had shown up to the meeting on Aug. 20, well prepared and holding documented numbers. During the timeframe of 2011, Grant had met with Willow Phillips, who was heading up the rose garden’s care. At that time he personally coordinated with her; adding proper timers and a working drip system for efficiency. This was arranged for the main rose garden area only, which existed on an average of 8,000 gallons per month.

During the winter months, it maintained as low as 3,074 gallons per month. But as time progressed, and there was no committee or main group in charge of the roses, the watering system was tampered with – left on for hours, with increases that are documented as high as 213,000 gallons per month in August of 2014 and as low as 26,000 gallons in the winter months.

As Grant went through each month’s use, the volunteers at the meeting were aghast at the differing, high water loss experienced by a lack of proper oversight.

“When this was started,” Grant advised, “the documents stated that it was never to be a public works project, nor would the county or city incur the oversight of this garden. Even the library was not the overseer, but was only there to write a voucher request and turn it into the county if needed. It is long past due to see this project revised and kept up properly. If we can’t get a handle on it, something has to be decided because the overwatering not only ruined the soil, it created a mess. The watering system is no longer functional; it is in need of repair, and many other plants, beside the roses, are mixed into the garden now; some roses are barely growing anymore as they are crowded out.”

Grant shared many practical facts and plain logic, in the frame work of his genuine concern about the actual future of this garden. Resident Kathy Trujillo shared honestly about her personal experience in seeing the past community garden project lose its footings.

“Because it had been planted on a property we didn’t own, we really could not control the garden’s future in a long-term ownership. Another factor was the failure of not becoming a solid formation, with a board of directors which could have kept an endless legacy in place.” She expressed that a foundation could’ve been established to make sure there were officers to keep it on track as each need arose. “Sadly it dissolved and we had been making a difference to the lives of kids and within the community. But there was no who, what, when and where established and with no personal responsibility vested and no structure, it failed. Sadly many of us had invested our own money into plants and supplies and it has all rotted away. It’s tough to see it now.” Trujillo learned from that experience, also touching upon the reality that the town is much smaller now, so it will be difficult to locate dedicated volunteers. “So much has to be weighed in on this, but personally I love the rose garden and I hope there is a solution.” As the members discussed questions and ideas, Grant reminded everyone of a few important points before leaving. “The water is an issue and it is currently receiving a one-time, daily watering, which is on a timer that shuts off – no one can get to it or alter it. I believe the garden has a chance, but only if a group steps up to take full ownership of it and doesn’t let it fall. This cannot be a utility department issue, or the library’s issue or the commissioner’s issue. It was created by residents for the residents. It is blight now, but it needs to be in the forefront of people’s minds, especially those that don’t want to see it go. If they love it, they need to get involved.” Grant explained that there was an account at the county, with some funds left. There was also a master book with all the names and information held at the library for viewing. Some in Hawthorne have responded with ideas of creating a reading park atmosphere, designed to accommodate all the past names in a kiosk and allow for future names. With a small portion of the rose garden remaining up front, it would be doable for a garden club group to keep it up. The garden club asked Tammy Bunch to become a chairperson of the group and Trujillo offered to advise her of the process of becoming a non-profit, should the group decide on that avenue. Another cleanup at the Memory Rose Garden is scheduled for Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. with all the public invited.

“Anyone can come by at any time and just pull out a few weeds. No one needs an invitation to help out and they can work it around their own schedule. Just bring your own gardening gear”, Ruby Hume added at the close of the meeting.