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Land ahoy! Pirate ship docks at the Children’s Garden

By Melissa Wagoner

On April 15 The Oregon Garden’s newest exhibit was “christened with children and laughter,” according to Director of Operations Delen Kitchen. She oversaw the addition of the first two-story pirate ship to ever to sail into the Children’s Garden.

The pirate ship is launched by the volunteers who built it along with a representative from the Oregon State Federation of Garden Clubs, and Oregon Garden Director of Operations, Delen Kitchen (brown jacket). Melissa Wagoner
The pirate ship is launched by the volunteers who built it along with a representative from the Oregon State Federation of Garden Clubs, and Oregon Garden Director of Operations, Delen Kitchen (brown jacket).                                                                                                Melissa Wagoner

“The plans were drawn in 2018,” she said, pulling out the original drawing created by volunteer Rick Galbraith. He, along with fellow volunteer Rich Meganck – produced the idea for the ship.

“They both have been volunteering for a very long time and they both have a construction background,” Kitchen said. “So, at that point it was up to us to fundraise for the project.”

Initially granted $4,000 by the Oregon State Federation of Garden Clubs, and another $1,000 by Mount Angel Oktoberfest, the project appeared to be off and running, but then a series of untimely events becalmed the project.

 

“First we had to put it off because we could only do it in the winter,” Kitchen said. “Then there was the 2020 pandemic and a management change.”

Finally, in the fall of 2022, Kitchen decided something needed to be done.

“I had been sitting on this money and the volunteers were still really passionate,” she said.

So she put wind in the sails for the crew of seven dedicated volunteers and gave permission to begin construction.

“It’s entirely volunteer-built,” Kitchen said. “They put in over 550 hours, all told. Our staff helped, but if you talked to them, they would say it was largely volunteer done.”

Built almost entirely of reclaimed materials, the ship itself is crafted from boards salvaged from garden sheds and a decommissioned bridge, the cannons are chunks of water pipe and the anchor is a pair of shovels, making the pirate ship, not only a play structure, but an educational model as well. 

“The Natural Resources Education Program uses this area,” Kitchen said, describing the plan to erect signage that will explain the ship’s unique construction in the hopes of inspiring others to reclaim and reuse.

It’s just one of the many projects Kitchen and the Garden’s staff are currently implementing in the hopes of attracting new visitors.

“Our goal is to draw people from all of Oregon and from the Silverton area as well,” Kitchen said. “And to get the next generation interested in gardening.”

Which is why, as with the pirate ship, several other new additions are geared toward welcoming families with kids.

“We’re adding story times once a month,” Kitchen said. There’s also the addition of pollinator shaped garden beds and the return of the July Third Celebration as well.

It’s exciting to Kitchen, who has worked at the Garden for the past eight years, to see so many new projects on the horizon.

“We’ve been in recovery phase,” she said. “This is the first year we’re shifting into growth.”

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