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Norwalk Woman Replaces Drug Dealers with Flowers

When Ganga Duleep first laid out the butterfly garden that would anchor her vision for South Norwalk's Ryan Park , the last thing she expected was to be propositioned by drivers in flashy cars. "A chap in a BMW tried to pick me up," she says. "I don't think he was used to an older woman laughing at him!"

Before she could get the garden started, Ganga had to befriend some local prostitutes and drug dealers who hung out in the two-acre green space on Day Street behind the Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) center. "I used to talk to them whenever I was here," she says. She showed them her vision for the park, which was to create gardens and an orchard, and a playground for the local children. Eventually the drug dealers and prostitutes moved elsewhere.

After just two years, Ryan Park is taking shape. Working with interns from the master gardener's program at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford, Ganga, herself a master gardener, has turned one side of the park into a giant flowerbed planted with flowers, herbs and bushes to attract butterflies. In the center of the bed is a fanciful sculpture of a caterpillar that Ganga built, drawing inspiration from Eric Carle' s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

A row of new fruit trees lines a path, and a memory garden has just been planted with daisies and forget-me-nots. The far side of the park features a rain collection system that funnels water into the park for irrigation, as there is no water on the site.

Ganga and her army of volunteers work on the gardens in Ryan Park with permission from the City of Norwalk's Parks and Recreation Department , but otherwise they're on their own. "The Bartlett Arboretum and some private families have donated plants," she says, but Ganga herself brings in the bulk of what's been planted so far. Eventually, she hopes to fill the two acres with gardens that will teach the local residents about flowers, fruit and vegetables. "What I really need is an angel investor," she says with a sigh.

If you'd like to help Ganga Duleep realize her vision for Ryan Park, drop me a line at fpearson@mainstreetconnect.us

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