PHOTO: gazebo

AN idea that took root 90 years ago is thriving today and giving Virginians another reason to think they live in one of America’s most beautiful states.

Virginia Garden Club Week (April 27–May 4) starts on Saturday, and even those not excited about gardening or even admiring someone else’s green thumb might want to take a moment to recognize the club and its members.

For anyone who has enjoyed one of the commonwealth’s wonderful state parks, there is cause to give thanks to the Garden Club.

Ninety years ago, in 1929, the Garden Club of Virginia, along with the Izaak Walton League and the Virginia Academy of Science, urged the General Assembly to establish a state park system. Our legislature, not known for profligate spending, listened to the club and its compatriots and said yes.

What has developed, over the years, is what is consistently rated as one of the finest state park systems in the United States.

There are 38 state parks now, from False Cape, between Back and Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, to Wilderness Road, 10 miles from the Cumberland Gap, to Sky Meadows, in the far northwestern part of the state. Among the treasures are Lake Anna, Caledon and Widewater in our vicinity.

Our state parks draw visitors from within and outside the Old Dominion. According to a study done by Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business (and reported on in The Free Lance–Star), the parks generate $1.26 in state and local taxes for every dollar of tax money that is spent on them.

The Rappahannock Valley Garden Club is the group within the Garden Club of Virginia that is responsible for Fredericksburg and the surrounding area. Its tour is set for April 30. Proceeds from the tour will go toward restoration projects, including the Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, Kenmore, the Mary Washington House and the Mary Washington Monument.

Fredericksburg’s Jeanette Rowe Cadwallender served as state president of the Garden Club from 2014 to 2016.

The Garden Club of Virginia will celebrate its centennial next year. It was formed by progressive-minded women looking for ways to improve their communities. In addition to the state parks, it has supported, among other things, public education, public health and access to clean water. It has done much to enhance and celebrate the beauty of one of the nation’s loveliest states.

About 26,000 people from Virginia and elsewhere paid to enjoy Garden Club Week last year. Some of the proceeds this year will go toward supporting the state park system the club helped to create.

Take a few hours to admire that beauty in our own area on April 30. And take a long or short hike to one of those marvelous state parks for which the Garden Club helped plant the seeds 90 years ago.

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