ILWACO — Mark Chesler is helping to bring green leafy tranquility to Ilwaco.
He is working to create tiny community gardens for people to enjoy as they travel around town.
He and Mark Currie joined forces on a couple of projects.
One is on bare land next to the city ball park at the far end of Southeast Lake Street. Another is behind the former laundromat at First and Main streets that Currie has purchased with a view to developing it.
Chesler said he finds working the soil and arranging plants peaceful — and believes others will enjoy the benefits.
"It's definitely something positive for people to enjoy," said Chesler, who moved to the Peninsula a couple of years ago.
"The tree got us started," said Currie, gesturing toward an old apple tree which forms a key element of the finished design on Lake Street next to his home at 903. "It was completely engulfed in blackberries. You couldn't see it."
Pitching in for their town
The city had begun to tidy up the area, but more work remained. Currie and Chesler took about three weeks to clear up the tangled mess then create a landscaped garden, complete with river rock twisting through ferns and other plants. They left an area of grass around their flower bed so people could walk around the design.
The project has the blessing of the city of Ilwaco, which maintains the adjoining ballfield. "They did a lot of work and really went the extra mile," said Scott Corsi, public works supervisor. "They wanted to make it look nice and they did. They offered to help and I said, 'Have at it!'"
A natural fit
The work was a natural for the two Marks.
Currie has been visiting the Peninsula since he was two years old, and as a youngster pushed a fish cart at Jessie's. Now he has his own concrete-cutting business in Vancouver and owns homes in Ilwaco, Oysterville and Ocean Park.
He recently bought the downtown building where the laundromat and dry cleaning business was located and has plans to develop it. Chesler, who lives nearby, assists as his building caretaker.
Chesler retired from his career as a land surveyor when GPS technology made some traditional skills redundant. He spent seven years in Hawaii living close to the botanical gardens on Maui, where he later worked and learned about plants.
He noticed how people in a drug rehabilitation program gained considerably by learning to nurture the plants there. As part of their recovery regimen, they worked in the garden. "They seemed much better. They couldn't wait to get out there. It's so healthy."
Eventually, Chesler hopes his all-volunteer work in Ilwaco may grow into a business venture. But for now he is hoping the creative clean-up work he completed to create the tiny gardens, including the one behind the laundromat, will delight others.
"I just kind of went for it," he said, pointing with pride toward a bird bath and river rock design, with some vertically placed logs around the edge.
"The rocks were here and so was much of the other stuff," he said.
"People come by to look at this and we get a lot of compliments."