"What used to be here?"
Eklund Garden was born in 2007, when Girl Scout Troop 512 (Long Hill School) began clearing out the abandoned grounds of what was once an upscale cabin owned by Herman and Lillian Eklund replete with in-ground pool, several outbuildings, and expansive garden beds terraced into the side of a hill.
Little is known about the Eklunds, except that they purchased the land in 1934 at the height of the Great Depression, and by 1938 had constructed the cabin. We have heard that they were from New York City, that Herman was a Master Carpenter, and that he built all the stonework himself. After Lillian's death in 1967 Herman lived alone until he passed away in 1988 at age 84. The estate was eventually sold to a developer in the 1990's, who sold part of the land to the City for open space.
The City removed the outbuildings and filled in the pool, but hoped to use the cabin for a nature center until vandals burned it down in the late '90s.
Although the buildings are gone, the expansive garden beds and stonework remain alongside a hiking trail. By 2007, when the Girl Scouts began their work, the garden beds were hidden under an intense growth of invasive species, and a 20-foot high thicket of birch marked the location of the missing cabin. Teresa sprayed the invasive Black Swallowwort and poison ivy repeatedly over the summer.
In 2008 Master Gardener Allison Menendez joined the effort, providing a burst of energy and enthusiasm. Allison, Teresa and several other volunteers finished clearing out the garden grounds, which was heavy work (a thicket of 20-foot saplings were growing in the garden).
Allison and Teresa then took a drive up to Earth Tones in Woodbury and brought back a load of native plants, and augmented that with some species taken out of their own gardens and woodland edges.
Stocking the Garden
Once the garden beds were cleared out, we discovered just how big this garden really was. There was no way the occasional small-time donation was going to work - we needed significant funding to really get this project off the ground. The Conservation Agent applied for a grant and in January 2009 the Iroquois Pipeline Company donated $2,500 for the purchase of native species to be planted in May 2009.
The Iroquois Company also funded the construction of the Rec Path boardwalk near Lane Street and a section of path along Oak Valley Road.
During the spring of 2009 several trail volunteers installed about 850 feet of deer fencing to protect the new plants, cut down trees, helped rake twenty years of leaves from the beds, and helped to restore some of the rockwork. Teresa rescued some native plants from trail areas and transplanted them at the Garden.
In May, Teresa used the bulk of the Iroquois grant money and planted the main bed and some other areas. Over the years, some plants were lost, others were added, and some simply went to seed and multiplied. There is no source of water at the garden, so it's survival of the fittest.
Address: 10 Oak Valley Road, Shelton, CT. There is a small parking lot and path leading to the garden in about 100 feet.
Driving Directions: Click HERE for personalized driving directions. From the interesection of Route 108 (Shelton Ave) and Nells Rock Road, drive south on Nells Rock Road for 0.5 mile, passing Hope Lake, and take the first right onto Oak Valley Road. Proceed 0.1 mile to a small parking lot on the left.
Hiking & Biking: Eklund Garden is surrounded by an extensive trail network and can be reached by foot or bike. Click HERE for the latest trail maps. All trails in the Greenway are open to mountain bikes, horses, and dogs on leash, while the Rec Path is suitable for regular bikes and baby strollers. From the Hope Lake picnic area on Nells Rock Road, follow the white blazes along the shoreline and turn left onto the BLUE blazes just as you come to the arch bridge at the southern tip of the lake. The blue blazes go through the garden in 0.1 mile.
VIA the REC PATH: The Rec Path is a popular gravel path suitable for regular bicycles and baby strollers. A popular place to park the Dog Park at the corner of Nells Rock Road and Shelton Avenue. BICYCLES: Follow the gravel Rec Path southbound for 0.75 mile to a gate quickly followed by the first driveway crossing. Turn left onto the driveway to Oak Valley Road, and stay straight (do not turn right) onto Oak Valley Road for 0.2 mile to a small parking area on the right for the garden. WALKERS: Follow the Path southbound for 0.75 mile to a gate, where a hiking trail goes left up into the mountain laurel. The trail is marked with red and white flower blazes. Follow these blazes carefully all the way to the back entrance of the garden, about 0.2 mile. To make a return loop, follow the blue blazes out the front entrance and along the shoreline of Hope Lake, turning right onto the Rec Path near the Hope Lake Dam.