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As It Was: Old-Growth Azaleas Survive the Tramples of Time

In 1828, the explorer Jedediah Smith first documented an extraordinary stand of native azaleas flourishing along the Chetco River in present-day Brookings, Ore.

During the 1850s, this fragrant grove sat in the path of a hectic pack-trail and was pummeled by miners.  Decades later, it took a further thrashing from the coastal wagon route and was overgrown by an invasion of non-native blackberry vines.  In the early 1930s, it provided pasture for mules with an appetite for flowering plants.

Somehow, some of the azalea shrubs survived.

The presence of this botanical wonder did not go unappreciated, so some alert local citizens requested to have it designated as a park.  In 1937, the State purchased the property from the Brookings Land & Townsite Company for $2,466.  The park’s upkeep proved costly, and after a long period of neglect, the State turned maintenance over to the City of Brookings.  In 1994, volunteers formed the Azalea Park Foundation.

Today, the 37-acre, manicured site is the so-called “Crown Jewel” of Brookings, boasting five wild species of old-growth azaleas alongside thousands of additional ornamental plantings.
 

Sources: Adams, Mike. Chetco. Brookings, Oregon, The Chetco Valley Historical Society, 2011;

"Facilities - Azalea Park." City of Brookings, Oregon, City Hall, www.brookings.or.us/facilities/facility/details/Azalea-Park-5.  Accessed 21 Oct. 2017;  "Azalea Park Foundation." Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/azaleaparkfoundation/. Accessed 21 Oct. 2017; "Azalea Park." City of Brookings, Oregon, City Hall, www.brookings.or.us/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/239. Accessed 21 Oct. 2017.

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Laurel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. Laurel is the author of "Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery", a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.