The City of Brookings has been designated an “Azalea City” by the Azalea Society of America (ASA).
“Sincere congratulations to you and your city. It is clear that the City of Brookings has an active history of promoting and celebrating azaleas with numerous municipal, civic, and community events, said ASA President Robert Lee. “Azaleas are obviously a part of the community culture and it is only fitting that your city should receive certification as an ASA Azalea City.”
One of the principal goals of the ASA is to promote the appreciation of azaleas in public and private landscapes. To help achieve that goal, ASA established the Azalea City program in 2004 to find, recognize and certify those municipalities that promote and display azaleas as Azalea Cities.
Brookings is the first Oregon city to be certified as an Azalea City, and only the eighth city in the nation to be designated.
The City of Brookings and many of its residents have been active in the cultivation, preservation and celebration of azaleas…both on public and private property…for many years.
“We are pleased to receive this special recognition for our community,” said Mayor Jake Pieper. “We plan to continue to build this into the fabric of the community and utilize the designation in our visitor promotion program.”
The Brookings City Council has adopted a Resolution encouraging the use of azaleas in public and private landscaping.
The 78th annual Azalea Festival…which pre-dates the incorporation of the City…is scheduled for May 26-29, 2017. The event includes the Azalea Parade on highway 101 and the crowning of the Azalea Queen and Court. Other festival activities are being planned by the Brookings Harbor Chamber of Commerce and other community-based organizations.
The City accepted ownership of Azalea Park from the State of Oregon in 1992. Azalea Park is a 33-acre park containing 850 ancient native azaleas that were growing there when Lewis and Clark wintered on the Oregon Coast in 1805-06.
The native azaleas had long been overgrown with berry vines and needed restoration when the City took ownership of the park. A group of volunteers and the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation began restoring the plants. This, in turn, released a flood of volunteer energy that built walkways and planting areas, cleaned up debris and planted rhododendrons.
“The revitalization of this park has brought much beauty and joy to the residents of Brookings as well as visitors,” said Mayor Pieper.
The abundance of the native azalea bushes is a direct reflection of the care given to these very old plants by local citizens. The City maintains the park…which includes a formal garden with non-native azaleas and rhododendrons…in cooperation with the Azalea Park Foundation.
The azalea blooming period at Azalea Park is typically early to late spring with May being the height of the blooming season.
Azalea Park offers active and passive recreational activities, exposing all park-goers to the native azaleas located there. Park amenities include softball/baseball fields, volleyball court, disc golf, picnic tables, handicapped accessible restrooms and horseshoe pits. A band shell hosts summer concerts in the midst of the native azaleas. The castle-like "Kidtown" play area provides younger children with a play area offering forts, bridges, slides, tires and ropes. All facilities were constructed by volunteer labor and contributions.
In 2007, Academy Award Winner Elmo Williams selected Azalea Park as the site for his “Capella by the Sea.” The $800,000 rustic timber, stone and glass structure has become a popular location for weddings and small musical events.
Every December Azalea Park is the site of "Nature's Coastal Holiday Light Show" which returns bigger and brighter each year with dazzling light displays created by the many community service groups. From the middle of the month until January 1, the park is transformed into a winter wonderland with a light show and sculpture display. The entire creative display follows a Northwest theme as visitors traverse through pathways bordered by the native azaleas.
Located about two blocks from Azalea Park another City-owned facility…Stout Park…is home for another 80 native azaleas. Located adjacent to the Manly Art Center, this grove of azaleas is the site of the annual Brookings Art in the Park Festival where artists display their creations among the native azaleas each spring.
The City has landscaped a portion of its downtown “Bankus Park” with azaleas, and has utilized rhododendrons…an azalea relative…as landscaping at another downtown “pocket park.” Azalea Middle School is found in the center of town.
Information on the planting and care of azaleas is available at City Hall or on the City’s website, or on the ASA website www.azaleas.org. The City is offering to assist home and business owners in coordinating the purchase of azalea stock. Information concerning this program can be obtained from the Visitor Information Center at City Hall, (541) 469-1103.
Many local residents have also incorporated azaleas into their landscaping. The Gary and Carolyn Milliman residence is home to over 200 azaleas and rhododendrons, including some rhododendrons that are over 40 years old and 30 feet in height.