All America City Square

The All America City Square (a.k.a. Opal Whitely Park) is the signature project for The Cottage Grove Garden Club. It is located in downtown Cottage Grove.

The All America City Square is located in historic downtown Cottage Grove. It began life as “Opal Whitely Park,” a “guerilla garden” at the base of a mural to Opal Whitely, a local historical character, amateur botanist, and author. In 2004, the land was donated to the Economic Business and Improvement District (EBID), and in 2007 EBID had secured enough funding to install public restrooms and create a more formal European-style plaza.

Planting Party, June 2009
The new All America City Square was officially opened in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 13, 2008. Unfortunately, while much planning had gone into the design, there was apparently little to no plan for plant material or maintenance. A couple attempts were made by community members and groups to plant and maintain the Square, however, these groups were unable to make long-term commitments.

Early in the spring of 2009, EBID approached the Garden Club (which was barely 6 months old) to take over the planting of the Square. On May 19, 2009, the Garden Club decided to become involved and a committee was formed which organized with EBID, key downtown businesses, and several local nurseries. The committee had the hard task of designing the planting beds, getting the plants, and organizing a community event to get the Square planted, all before the heat of summer.

Community Planting Party, June 14, 2009
The club’s presence and involvement with the Square began publicly on June 14, 2009, with our first planting party. Many club members and community volunteers participated, including lots of families.

In October of that year, EBID donated the Square to the City of Cottage Grove. We have since established and enjoyed a good relationship with the City and its employees.

Implementation and Activities
Claire, then treasurer for the Club, led our early efforts in the Square, with the help of committee members Suzanne and Andrea. Together they spearheaded the planting design, “shopped” for plants at a variety of local nurseries (most of the time nurseries gave deep discounts if not donations for the plants), and organized planting parties and volunteers. Under Claire’s leadership we established a strong footing at the Square. Andrea now provides the leadership in maintaining the square.
Late July 2011
 Of course, over the years, we have had to replace damaged or dead plants, replace annuals, plant spring flowering bulbs, monitor and tweak the irrigation system, provide fertilization, reapply mulch, bring in boulders and make soil mounds for added interest, and dead head as needed. Maintenance of the park happens with work parties – both major seasonal parties to plant or clean-up the beds, and monthly work parties for regular deadheading and routine maintenance.

Because the All America City Square is in the heart of our historical downtown it is the site of many community activities, including hosting children for Halloween parties, offering space for youth chalk drawings and local artists, being a stop on the South Lane Mental Health garden tour, and a providing a bandstand area during such events as the annual Bike Fest.

Band setting up. Late Summer 2011
Our involvement with the All America City Square has promoted the Garden Club within the city. Our work there has been front page news of our local newspaper and is acknowledged with signage within the Square. January of 2011 we received a formal award from the City of Cottage Grove for our involvement in the Square.

If you would like to help in the Square or learn about upcoming work parties, please leave your contact information in the form at the right. 

This information was excerpted from our Book of Evidence, submitted to the National Federation of Garden Clubs for Award #49, Community Landscape Design, in December 2010 and originally appeared in the Cottage Grove Garden Club Newsletter, Sept. 2011. It has been updated to reflect our more current work and leadership.