Master Gardeners in the Community: The Wedge at Mt. Sinai Heritage Park

The perfect time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now. This Chinese proverb applies to many aspects of life including the creation, enhancement and maintenance of the landscape at the Wedge in Mt. Sinai.

The Wedge (Heritage Park and Heritage Center) was just a seed of an idea 20 years ago. In just a score of years, 18 acres of sod farm have been transformed into a “mini central park” cherished by many and envied by others. Volunteers, donors and local government have foraged a partnership to ‘grow’ a mix of passive and active recreational features at the Wedge. Contoured slopes, meandering walking paths, landscaped areas and gardens, a playground, putting green and three sports fields allow visitors to ease their minds, reflect, learn, enjoy, communicate, romp, run, walk and play. Add to these are the community and private events sponsored by the 501c3 Heritage Trust at the Heritage Center.

The 2017 crop of Master Gardeners toured the park in May. I enjoyed sharing information and experiences about the landscape and hardscape added to the Wedge by volunteers, scouts and local business. At the end of the tour I felt there was more to share about being a Master Gardener volunteer at the Wedge.

Any volunteer project will confront challenges (issues) like soil preparation, water supply, money, leadership, time, consensus building, short and long term maintenance, nurturing of personal rewards, and permission from and coordination with the powers that be. All have been experienced and are part of the ‘tree’ planted twenty years ago.

The playground and putting green are great family fun. Organized sports are played on the ball fields but it is not uncommon to see kids and adults engaged in “free play” or friends and families picnicking on the same fields. The play knoll is climbed by tots, rolled down in the summer and sledded down in winter. The park’s daffodil Smiley Face brings smiles to faces when 2,500 daffodils bloom.

The activity and landscape changes with the season but one constant is the use of the 0.7 mile perimeter path.  Kids, adults, families, friends, residents of group homes, people recovering from surgery or heart attacks walk, stroll, run, ride scooters, and learn to ride bikes on the path.

The park is so favored because of its openness, sense of safety, location, contours and landscape. The textures, colors and shapes of the landscape change with each season. The spring Master Gardener tour highlighted the following:

  • Old Man’s Machine and Crop exhibit – Crop plots of grains, flax, potatoes and rows of lavender have a back drop of farm implements that were used to prepare soil, plant and harvest crops.

  • Mt. Sinai Garden Club’s perennial and shade garden along with 8 community plots.
  • Small pollinator garden and corn crib shed.
  • Avenue of America mile sign post and the beginning of the Heritage Planet Walk.
  • Avenue of America trees and location of Parade of American Flags. Selected state trees were described and a prize Gold Rush dawn redwood was admired. In 20 years all these trees will enrich visitor’s pleasure in the park.
  • Court of America sitting area with a rock garden representation of the United States.  Aluminum edging forms the outline of the country, rocks represent mountains, shaped bluestone the Great Lakes and various plants vegetate the land (below). Presidential blocks border the 20’ x 14’ “map”.

  • The blooms of the Patriotic Triangle symbolize the colors of our nation and the three sides and corner columns (Ionic and two Corinthian) represent the branches of government.
  • The dawn redwood corner is developing into a low maintenance landscape. The Arkansas rose is the symbol of Iowa and North Dakota and Vinca, St. John’s Wort, Walkers Low and Liriope will suppress the growth of weeds. The tall redwood is still recovering from being transplanted eight years ago and someday will be 130 to 150 feet tall.
  • A butterfly garden triangle is well established and has a bridge for the bridging ceremonies of local Girl Scout troops.
  • A grass play knoll provides a high place to climb and enjoy the open space of the park. Families and friends picnic on the crest or watch kids roll or sled down the slopes.
  • A new golf putting green is enhanced with a landscaped water feature.
  • A Hinoki cypress maze has plant but will take time to establish. When opened it will complement the playground and putting green.
  • The Four flags triangle is enhanced with shrubs and perennials.

People compliment and thank us for our volunteer work on the landscape and it is not uncommon for people to ask questions about what is planted. The last 20 years has been rewarding. The next 20 years will provide future master gardeners and other volunteer opportunities to enrich and maintain the Wedge. Visit the Wedge and say hello if you see us puttering in the park. Congratulate Fred when you see him, he has volunteered 40 years of community service for CCE Suffolk.

If you’d like to help please contact any of the below:

Fred Drewes;  631-473-6776

Heritage Trust;  631-509-0882

Walter Becker, Mt Sinai Garden Club;

Article written by Fred Drewes, Master Gardener Volunteer                

Photos courtesy of Valerie Bruno, Master Gardener Class of 2017


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