River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation

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Springsview Garden and the RRUUC Grounds

Remembering 50 Years at River Road...

You know that our congregation is named after the road on which we sit, but did you know that we have a natural water source in our own back yard?  Behind the playground, you will see a luxuriant garden, named Springsview Garden, with our own little river running through it.  Kehl Markley, the man who made the abstract sculpture sitting outside the sanctuary doors, discovered the spring in the early 1970s.  He cleared it out and had the water tested to make sure it wasn’t contaminated (it wasn’t).  After he passed away, his wife Nina tried to maintain the garden.  By the 1980s, RRUUC’s grounds committee chair Jean Coolidge enlisted help from Helen Popenoe, her son Charles, Gwlfa Rubin, Ky Easton, Janet Koch, and others to transform the neglected spring into a Japanese garden.  Jean had lived in Japan and had an eye for details.  The group cleared out the leaves and muck and placed rocks for the stream to run freely.  Jean instructed the group on how to place the rocks so that they looked like they had always been there.  “Make it look as though no human hand has touched it,” Helen remembers Jean saying.  To stem flooding along the north side of the RRUUC building, the congregation installed underground piping that fed the excess water into the spring.  To control erosion along the banks of the spring, the group planted ferns and euonymous.  The goal was to create a peaceful meditation place aligned with our Unitarian Universalist Transcendentalist roots, to give the feeling of the positive flow of nature.

As part of the building expansion project in 2006, RRUUC created a conservation easement on approximately one acre of land at the rear of the site.  This action guarantees that land will never be built-up and forever remain natural habitat.

What about the rest of RRUUC’s grounds?  From the beginning, our congregation wanted our grounds to look like a natural wood setting.  We rejected the idea of having an expansive lawn.  The natural wood setting, though has challenges.  Contrary to the popular idea that such a landscape plan would require little to no maintenance, a natural setting actually requires skillful and knowledgeable management.  Otherwise, the grounds become overgrown with such undesirables as honeysuckle, poison ivy, and brambles.  Since the 1970s, our grounds committee has used spring and fall grounds days to enlist volunteer help in maintaining our natural setting and also educate people about its beauty with tours.  Though we have taken errant plants out, we have also done substantial plantings over the years, especially along the River Road side to cover the barren expanse left by the county when it widened River Road.  More help is always needed by the grounds committee, now chaired by Janet Fernandez.

In 1991, the congregation took further steps to beautify our grounds while honoring our members with a Memorial Garden.  The Memorial Garden, approved at a special January 1992 congregational meeting and dedicated that September, is meant to be a place for spiritual reflection and personal meditation in honor of those who have been members.  Its benches, small fountain, and plantings provide a refuge.  Now, the congregation is considering adding a Memorial Wall to name those members we have lost.  If you are interested in finding out more about this idea, please contact Joan Zenzen.