Smyrna — Secretary of Transportation Carolann Wicks today joined Lieutenant Governor John Carney and officials from the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Chesapeake Region, the Brandywine Hundred Chapter of The Compassionate Friends, various local and elected officials, as well as friends and family of victims of Delaware traffic fatalities, to officially dedicate the Delaware Highway Memorial Garden at the Smyrna Rest Area.
“The dedication marks the official opening of the garden to the public. The garden is unique in that it is the first garden of its type nationwide to remember the victims of various types of traffic fatalities statewide,” states Secretary of Transportation Carolann Wicks.
The Memorial Garden was created in response to the many requests DelDOT receives regarding the legality and placement of roadside memorials. Roadside memorials are illegal under Delaware’s Clear Zone Safety Law, and at times pose a safety hazard to motorists. By ordering an engraved brick, the garden will provide a personal, safe and permanent way to remember a loved one.
During the ceremony, Abby Reichardt, daughter of traffic fatality victim Warren G. H. Pritchett, Jr., officially placed her father’s brick in the pathway. The placement of her brick, along with the 300 others already in place, gave significant meaning to the garden’s slogan – ‘Our Garden of Love, Peace, Healing and Remembrance.’ The garden will provide families of lost loved ones the opportunity to enjoy the peacefulness of the garden as they remember their lives together and move forward toward healing.
In addition the garden will serve as a daily reminder to drive safely for all motorists stopping by the rest area. “The Memorial Garden will be just the beginning of DelDOT’s attempts to decrease, and hopefully eliminate, traffic fatalities in our state,” said Secretary of Transportation Carolann Wicks at the dedication. She vowed that awareness and education are two key areas the Department intends to focus on as they look for ways to address the alarming number of traffic fatalities in the state.
The 11,000 square foot garden was built on the grounds of the Smyrna Rest Area at 5500 DuPont Highway in Smyrna, Delaware by various members of the Department of Transportation. The garden contains a creative blend of native trees, shrubs and flowering plants. Existing large oak trees anchor the seasonal changes of color. A concrete pathway outlined with personalized bricks gives the garden significant meaning and character. Also benches are placed throughout the garden for visitors’ use.
The total cost of the garden is approximately $239,000. DelDOT’s Transportation Enhancement Program, which allows for the development and implementation of a variety of non-traditional projects that highlight cultural, aesthetic, and environmental aspects of the transportation system, supplied $129,000 of the funding, while several legislators provided $110,000 via their allocated Community Transportation Funds.
The garden was a collaborative effort of a partnering committee consisting of representatives from DelDOT, the Office of Highway Safety, MADD Chesapeake Region, The Compassionate Friends Brandywine Hundred Chapter, and other victim services agency and advocates.
If anyone is interested in ordering a free brick, obtaining a Memorial Garden brochure or the Official Memorial Garden Program from the event (for families who may not have been able to attend), please contact DelDOT Public Relations at 302-760-2080 or (in-state) 800-652-5600.