At a recent site visit to the Community Gardens at the Fitzgerald Tract, the Board of Selectmen unanimously agreed that three granite benches erected by Dr. Durga Prasad in memory of his wife Shanti should be moved to the other side of the garden. The benches were installed at the top of the sloping meadow on the westerly side of the Fitzgerald Property, in conjunction with a rose garden in the plot that Dr Prasad and his wife had leased for gardening. He had asked selectmen for permission for his project in February of this year, but the installation became an issue after former First Selectman Amey Marella approached the board and in a subsequent letter asked selectmen to take a closer look at the proliferation of benches and other memorials along the Fitzgerald trails.
The Fitzgerald Tract is located in the center of town at the intersection of Beecher and Center roads. Its walking trails are a popular open space, in conjunction with community gardens and abutting woods.
Dr. Prasad’s granite memorial is not the only new bench. There are a number of newer benches on the trail parallel to Beecher Road. In contrast to the big granite blocks, though, these are wooden benches with small plaques.
“I ask that you focus more attention on this valuable open space,” Marella wrote in her letter. She said the walkways needed some sprucing up in some areas and noted that the asphalted area used as an “ice rink” in the winter time was used for roller blade hockey, which she felt was not an appropriate use for passive recreation.
Scalettar agreed to look into the matter. “Maybe it is time for a more formal approach,” in managing this resource, she said. Selectmen will ask the Commission on Publicly Owned Properties (CUPOP) to review usage of the property, including how to operate and manage community gardens, and to look at standards for benches and other memorials. In the meantime they promised Mr. Prasad to grandfather in his granite benches, both those inside and outside of the garden plot.
Mr. Prasad is offering to gift the benches and the rose garden to the town to offer walkers respite and tranquility, said First Selectman Ellen Scalettar. He agreed to have the benches outside of his rose garden moved, at his expense, to an area south of his plot. The town will clear the area of brush and weeds and add stone dust or mulch to keep the weeds down.
Shanti Prasad was born in a small village in northern India and came to this country in 1984. “She had great courage and spiritual power,” said her husband. Even if theirs was an arranged marriage, it turned out to be a happy partnership. They brought up six children, 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Shanti passed in August 2014, shortly after receiving a cancer diagnosis. They had designed the rose garden together, not as a memorial but as a place of beauty. “She loved this garden,” he said.
Both the rose garden and the benches will be accessible to the general public, he said.
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent