Willimantic Public Library Meeting Room
Call to order – 3:43 pm, Barbara Wright, Co-President presiding
In Attendance – Faith Kenton, Jay Osborne, Ursula Roskoski, Carole Williamson, Barbara Wright, Pam Wright.
Focus of the Special Meeting Barbara Wright began by stating that the purpose of the meeting is to talk about creating a set of policy statements on matters important to the membership. Cohesive policy would have the goal of allowing the Garden Club to be transparent in interactions with others, to behave in congruent ways, to ease orientation of new members, to help the club reaffirm a good working relationship with the Town of Windham, particularly the Public Works Department. Barbara emphasized that having written, agreed-upon policy is not to cast rules in bronze but to have a starting point from which to move forward.
Mission and Values of the Garden Club – This conversation focused on what are/have been the overarching values of the Garden Club: to help beautify the Town of Windham – that is the spirit of the Public Gardens; to create spaces that unify the community, that are welcoming to all, that create a sense of tranquillity and relaxation; it is important to some of the membership that the GC engage in educational endeavors – this has been partly realized in our work with student volunteers; what stands out on our website and in our bylaws is that the GC has adopted an ecological orientation and this has been realized in the promotion of organic gardening approaches, work on the national pollinator pathways project, promotion of the planting of native species, and striving to create an environmental ethic. It was mentioned that the GC has never actually adopted an official "Mission Statement”, but what is on the website is a good starting place.
“Our” gardens and other garden projects – This conversation made clear that what are “our” gardens has only ever been loosely defined as those gardens which members have taken an interest in and consistently maintained. In developing policy, it becomes apparent that a criteria for “ownership” should be established – possibly consisting of: someone in the club is interested in acting as “steward”; ease of watering; providing consistent maintenance. It was mentioned that on our website there are 14 gardens listed as being loosely associated with the Garden Club; also that the Garden on the Bridge is the only garden officially "ours”, in the sense that care for the Garden on the Bridge was the reason for the founding of the club in the first place.
As for “other garden projects”, the Garden Club has been approached at various times for assistance with town gardens and it is very valuable for our public relations to be in the role of advising. It needs to be made clear, however, that we can advise about, but not maintain, particular other gardens. Two recent examples include: (1) the club was approached by the Jillson House about help with re- establishing a colonial herb garden on that site; (2) the club was recently approached by folks who wish to revitalize the Veteran’s Memorial garden on Jackson Street.
Gardening Practices – The major part of this conversation centered on the use of herbicides in the gardens that the club maintains. There seems to be general consensus, based on recent discussions of
the High Street Hillside garden, that Garden Club members are opposed to the use of herbicides. However, based on further discussion, Barbara proposed that possible policy wording might state that we operate on the general principle of not using herbicides but allow for judicious exceptions. The further discussion included (1) Carole stating that, when considered necessary, instead of synthetic chemicals there are vinegars, salts and soaps that are designed as herbicides that dissipate rapidly, leave no residue, and, to our knowledge, do not cause chromosomal damage; (2) Pam stating that herbicide use may be the best ecological solution if we are dealing with some plant that is absolutely invasive and is destroying an ecosystem.
It needs to be strongly stated that Public Works requires that any use of herbicides in public spaces requires an applicator’s license and site posting of what has been used.
It was discussed that, globally, fertilizers are over-used and cause major problems of run-off into streams and rivers. There seems to be little reason for using them in our gardens. However, Carole stated that plants in pots, such as at the Garden on the Bridge, do require fertilizer use as they cannot receive nutrition in any other way.
Ursula added a preference for the use of hand tools as opposed to mechanized tools; Pam added that sometimes for large projects mechanized tools are the only option feasible and we should state a preference for electric as opposed to gasoline-powered, but even that is sometimes impractical as in the use of bull-dozers, etc., on very large projects.
The use of hired garden tenders – there was lively discussion but the overall sense is that for the Garden Club to be in the business of being an employer is a huge management challenge, involving such items as W2 and 1099 forms, public notification of a position, reviewing qualifications of candidates, duties, dissatisfaction with work performed, etc. This topic requires further conversation.
Member Roles – Barbara introduced this topic as meaning that a member of the Garden Club, has an obligation to follow the policies of the club, to embrace the values of the club, to regard other members as colleagues, and to have a collaborative, transparent approach to what one does as an individual. Ursula presented possible policy wording as: Any person representing the interests of the Garden Club needs to do so faithfully according to the agreed upon mission, policy and by-laws of the club. Pam expanded this by stating that, for example, when writing an article one needs to be clear whether they are representing Garden Club policy or representing their own views as an individual. Pam added some additional expectations of members (1) she had always understood that it was the duty of heads of committees to make yearly written reports to the membership-at-large, (2) all new activities/projects must be presented to the board and approved (3) club should engage in more volunteer/membership appreciation.
Communications – this topic came up because lots of folks have complained about the recent blizzard of emails. Barbara and Jay both apologized but stated that they have been sending out many of them in the spirit of being as transparent as possible. Jay stated that when he refers to sending emails to everybody, the “everybody” refers to the board. Ursula feels that email chains should all be on the same topic, a new topic should be indicated in the subject line and start a new chain. Some email users object to the use of “reply all” in an email chain but Ursula prefers to be able to see all sides of an issue in an email chain. Conclusion was that communications, especially by email, should be sent in the spirit of fostering collaboration, transparency and good-will.
Collaboration with other organizations – Barbara asked whether the GC wants to establish any criteria for which organizations we wish to establish a relationship and what kinds of approval may be necessary, for example, when we pay dues to the Last Green Valley or the Willimantic Neighborhood Development Association. Pam questioned the need for the GC to pay dues to any other organization and Barbara replied that membership in some other organizations, LGV, in particular, provides the club with tremendous public relations opportunities, they provide publicity for our activities and monetary support in terms of grants. Pam conceded the value of this PR and suggested these collaborations should be reviewed yearly by the membership. Carole mentioned that she thought of collaboration more in terms of relationships with the Senior Center, Boy and Girl Scout clubs, churches, etc.
Fostering partnership with local community organizations promotes good will, pride and ownership in GC projects by the citizenship at large.
Grant writing and Financial transactions – time ran out for lengthy for discussion on these two topics. In summary, it was suggested that all financial transactions need to be shared with the board, and all grant proposals written in the name of the GC should conform to the mission of the GC and need to be reviewed by the board. Further discussion is required on these topics.
Next Meeting – TBD
Adjourned – 5:00 pm
Respectfully submitted by Ursula Roskoski