Rock returns presence of author
Emily Dickinson is once again a presence in Bicentennial Park.
A large rock with the opening words of an Emily Dickinson poem once graced the entrance to Bicentennial Park across from the Dunkirk High School. It was a gift to residents of the Academy Heights neighborhood who had hosted The Big Read in March of 2014, celebrating the works of Emily Dickinson.
SUNY Fredonia served as the lead agency that year for this event sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts’ Big Read, and SUNY students had selected and painted the rock. It stayed in place for two years and then, mysteriously, disappeared. Volunteers searched for it without avail, thinking it might have ended up in Crooked Brook.
Dunkirk resident Kevin Killian generously donated a much larger rock from his property when he learned of the loss, and even delivered the rock with a smile in 2017. Now once again the words of Emily Dickinson have been painted on the rock in what neighbors hope will be its permanent home. It reads:
A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
(The rest of the poem for the curious is:)
But God be with the Clown –
Who ponders this tremendous scene –
This whole Experiment of green
As if it were his own.
Volunteer caretakers of this fairly new garden in the park invite visitors to come and appreciate the beauty of this magical place in the city during any season. Dickinson’s words clearly describe both her love of nature and her joy in Spring flowers. Her spirit will be right at home in Bicentennial Park.
The most recent project in the park has been the removal of an entire stand of invasive Japanese Knotweed, along with earth replacement along the brook, compliments of Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District, part of a larger grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to restore Crooked Brook during the past few years.
Steve and Mary Rees of Revitalize Dunkirk and Master Gardeners soon after organized a work party to remove tiny root fragments of this invasive plant which again had sprouted in the new soil. Native berry and other bushes were then planted on the banks of the brook. Eradication of Japanese Knotweed is a target task for the area where it has been spreading voraciously, crowding out native vegetation. This will be an experiment we hope may prove successful and if so repeated elsewhere.