By Dawn M Chiossi
It has often been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but in the case of the towns in which people live, it is unanimous: Beauty is not subjective: People at large enjoy seeing an immaculate and picturesque town. Psychologically, it cheers people, gives them a lift.
Flowers, gardens, garlands. A swag here, a decoration or accessory there, some people can create beauty from the most simple of ideas. There’s so much that can make a town beautiful and Denville’s Beautification Committee embraces that philosophy wholeheartedly. They are always trying to make that goal a reality in every season, seeking to make the town pop.
Full of ideas and inspirations, they make Denville bloom in the nicest of ways. With their green thumbs and desire to make people happy, these creative craft-enthusiasts are constantly keeping busy, doing everything from planting bulbs, to adorning the downtown in holiday splendor, and bringing nature’s bounty of blooms to the town when warmer weather rolls around.
The Denville Beautification Committee was originally organized around 1966 by Denville resident, Muriel Hepner. She contacted Franz Fuertges conveying her enthusiastic desire to have a positive effect on the community of Denville by beautifying it with plants and flowers. She wanted to demonstrate the ideology that “putting our best foot forward” would aid in keeping the town clean and safe. As such, she believed that people would behave and think in a more positive manner if the town was well kept.
When the committee was first formed, they boasted only a few members. Including Peggy Gray, Hilda McCarter, Audrey Packer, and Jean Shaw, as well as Hepner and Fuertges This tiny and might bunch fought to make a crowning glory of the town.
For the first plantings, there was a big push for planters in the downtown area. With an artistic eye, Muriel Hepner emphasized color and flowering trees and shrubs to hide less attractive areas as well as much more. It worked and Hepner’s vision as well as her achievements made Denville an uplifting place to live.
In fact, Hepner was so well regarded for her achievements, in 1978, Deville Township dedicated the Muriel Hepner Park in honor of her. A new foot bridge in the park is slated to be dedicated in 2019 that will be named in honor of Peggy Gray.
The Denville Beautification Committee is made up of approximately 30 volunteers (and are seeking more all the time) who seek to embrace Hepner’s vision. They all share a love of Denville and a passion to bring loveliness to the town.
These dedicated, talented people meet twice a week on Wednesday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00 and Saturday mornings from 9:00 to 12:00 during the growing season of March through December to work around Denville planting and maintaining 26 garden areas.
“It’s great,” Denville Beautification Committee Chairman, Dave Sipple enthuses.
The committee also meets formally once a month on the second Wednesday of the month at the Town Hall Community Room at 7:00 pm discussing the work they have done, what they need to do, and future plans. Additionally, Sipple can’t say enough about their weekly work parties.
“They are fun and social with everyone getting dirty and working outside,” he says.
For Sipple and the rest of the members, enhancing Denville and making it beautiful is a joy. Some of their projects include making planters on the sidewalks of Broadway, the Bicentennial Garden at the end Broadway, and smaller pocket gardens at the entrances to town and various intersections.
“We try to do several seasons of color during the year with flowering bulbs in the spring, annuals in the summer, and winter evergreen displays in the planters for fall and winter,” he asserts.. “We work with DPW and BID on maintaining the planters and hanging baskets on Broadway.”
Sipple has been involved with the Denville Beautification Committee for approximately 5 years, a position he inherited from former chairman Franz Fuertgus. Sipple shares that he became involved with the committee because he had done landscaping his whole life and wanted to share his talents and experience with the town.
“I had met Franz at the Rotary Festival in town and signed up to volunteer, I had worked for him for a couple of years way back (as had many on the committee) and knew of his love for the town and landscape design. Many of the gardens in town are of his design,” Sipple says proudly. “When Franz retired from the committee last year, he asked me if I would become the chairman, which I accepted. I love the committee, it keeps me out of trouble,” he jokes.
Warm and gregarious, he enjoys the social aspects of the committee as well. “I have met many new friends in town and keep meeting new people as they join the committee. It’s a diverse group. Many on the committee are gardeners or those that like working outdoors and playing in the dirt”.
But for all of his levity, for Sipple, gardening –and all that entails– is a passion, an inspiration and a pleasure. Some of the Denville Beautification Committee ongoing projects include enhancing McCarter Park and putting the finishing touches on the entrance to the new playground at Gardner Field with new sod and flowers for the opening ceremony.
Always seeking for ways to enhance the town, adding loveliness and artistry, the Denville Beautification Committee participates in some amazing town wide events.
“We participate every year in the Holiday Parade downtown with a float promoting the committee,” Sipple tells. “We design and build a float around the theme of the parade trying to include whatever plant material we can to show how green we are. This year we won best float,” he enthuses.
“In the past, we built a life size gingerbread house that is now in the Rotary Santa Land. This is a fun activity that doesn’t involve any weeding but brings out the creative side of our members.”
When asked what his favorite project was Sipple answers,” We moved a 10 to 12 foot spruce tree donated by a resident that became too big for their yard. It was dug and replanted near the gazebo on Diamond Spring Road.”
All in all, for Sipple the Denville Beautification Committee it is pure enjoyment, hands-on work that is deeply satisfying. “We try to make the club fun and exciting,” he says. “Where else can you drive by a planter or garden in town and say, ‘I planted that, or look what we did last week’?
But for Sipple, the beautification committee is so much more. For him it’s having fun and creating beauty for Denville and wherever he can find it through flowers, nature and artistry. “It is our crowning glory.”
Already thinking about the blooms and blossoms yet to come, when asked what he is looking forward to most in regard to Denville’s Beautification Committee, he has only one thing to say: “Spring”.