Robert Reed Park and Earth Day
by Sam Serio
Very few of the estimated 1.5 million visitors who cross the bridge from Chincoteague to Assateague Island each year may be familiar with the name Robert N. Reed, but without his efforts the bridge beneath their feet might have been delayed even longer than the fifteen years it took him to get it built.
Chincoteague's mayor from 1949 to 1962 (the year the bridge opened), Reed passed away in 2004. He lived to enjoy seeing the remarkable difference the bridge made in the local economy and lives of Chincoteague's people. In 2006, the Robert N. Reed Sr. Downtown Waterfront Park was dedicated to his memory.
The park is the culmination of his efforts by a private- public coalition. They transformed an abandoned dock left from Chincoteague's days as a major seafood processor into a waterfront park complete with boat skips, a public pavilion, and an artist's rendering of a Chincoteague pony. Robert Reed Park joins Chincoteague's Veteran's Memorial Waterfront Park as a great recreational venue for Chincoteague's residents and visitors.
In 2008, Robert Reed Park was the site of Chincoteague's inaugural Earth Day celebration. The celebration was sponsored by Chincoteague's Historic Main Street Merchants and the Chincoteague Cultural Alliance, whose artistic members used their talents to make unique art pieces from garbage cans. The cans were sold at auction and each buyer received both a biography of the can's creator and a certificate of authenticity.
Visitors to the Earth Day gathering received an education from the people manning the Habitat for Humanity, Fish and Wildlife and Wildlife Commission, and Haymakers Enterprises information booths who were there to expound on the wisdom of going green. Parents and kids alike could stroll down the Path of Enlightenment, getting hands-on experience in the art of carbon footprint minimization.
Organic foods and recycled craft items were available for purchase, as were trees. A very wise ancient Greek philosopher once wrote, "A society is great when its old men plant trees in the shade of which they know they will never sit," and the people of Chincoteague are working at becoming the greatest society they can!
The Earth Day originators gave their visitors the opportunity to recycle big-ticket electronic items like computers and mobile phones, and toxic things like batteries. They even asked the American Legion to assist them in collecting and respectfully retiring worn-out American flags.
It wasn't all education and ecological responsibility, however. There was plenty of live music, and an art show, and in addition to helping people dispose of their old flags, the American Legion served four hundred free hotdogs, sodas, and chips. Now that's community spirit!
Chincoteague's first Earth Day will be remembered for generations, thanks to the shade tree which was planted in Robert Reed Park to commemorate the occasion. But the best tribute will come from future generations of Chincoteague Islanders who benefit from a greener and cleaner home!