COUDERSPORT — The Coudersport Arboretum is home to several memorial benches, trees, even some light posts. Beyond that, personalized bricks line the walkway to remember a loved one. There are different gardens and an herb guild; it’s also where a caboose from the Coudersport-Port Allegany Railroad sits.
Though it’s a space full of memorials, two requests were recently denied by the arboretum committee to plant a rose bush in memory of Mary Caldwell, and install a Little Free Library, in memory of Parker Sprouse in the arboretum. Caldwell, 82, and Sprouse, 13, both died in the past year.
The requests were denied because the committee said neither matched the scheme or criteria, nor does the committee have the personnel or expertise to maintain a rose bush, Bev Morris, Coudersport borough manager, said during the last borough council meeting
“…I think that would be fantastic to have something like this for this child who has passed on. Especially that has to do with reading,” Wayne Hathaway, vice president of the council, said.
Kathy Kinard, vice president of the arboretum committee, told the Potter Leader-Enterprise she was in favor of allowing both the rose bush and the Little Free Library, but other committee members disagreed. She said another member suggested that families be offered to place benches, trees or light posts instead; if they didn’t want any of those options, they could buy a brick.
Chris Herzig, secretary of the arboretum committee, told the Potter Leader-Enterprise it’s not that they don’t like the ideas or have a memorial for the individuals, they just don’t have the manpower to maintain it.
“It’s a small space, but it takes a tremendous amount of time, work and money to keep it maintained,” Herzig said.
“We want to keep what we have as beautiful and well maintained as we can so it can be enjoyed,” Herzig said. She said the committee is able to maintain what it currently has; the committee also accepts responsibility for these items, so if something were to happen, it will replace it.
The borough council unanimously voted to approve both requests with the understanding that those putting in the rose bush and Little Free Library are responsible for maintaining the memorial and the borough had the right to remove it.
Todd Husson, borough council member, told the Potter Leader-Enterprise he thinks the community needs to step up and help the arboretum committee maintain the space.
“(It) shouldn’t be that hard to weed if you really love something and fought to ‘save’ it,” Husson wrote in a text message. “For all who believe the arboretum needed to be saved, they need to step up and weed it.”
“This is all the chain reaction to the Friends of the Arboretum’s — most of whom do not live in the borough — fight to hold onto a portion of the borough’s property and not allow for growth in our community. This is despite a land swap and maintenance agreement of the grounds, in perpetuity, at the proposed location,” Husson said.
The Friends of the Arboretum is the legal body for the arboretum and is separate from the arboretum committee, though some members do overlap. The Friends of the Arboretum were in a battle against the borough for the past couple of years to prevent the borough from selling the arboretum for Sheetz to expand. A land swap agreement was part of the sale, but a judge declared the sale illegal in February.
“And now, the audacity to not allow roses to be planted or the placement of a library exchange box in honor of two people from the community, is upsetting,” Husson said. “I believe these two new additions could enhance the arboretum, bring new life and hopefully more people willing to do the upkeep, which is clearly lacking.”
The Little Free Library was placed in the arboretum this past weekend and contains books from Parker Sprouse’s personal library.