GARDINER — Joselyn Walsh and her 8-year-old Pembroke Welsh corgi, Razzy, stumbled upon fairy houses built on an embankment in a clump of white birch on the new Steamboat Lane Nature Trail.

The fairy houses, gnome homes and toad abodes came as a surprise.

Walsh said she just discovered the trail at the south end of Gardiner’s waterfront park last week. She said she never expected to see all the tiny structures built out of tree bark, leaves, sea glass, sticks, stones, pinecones and mulch.

Razzy would have loved to venture beneath the rustic arch to take a closer look at this itsy-bitsy community, but Walsh was afraid her pet might accidentally step on one of the inhabitants.

“Corgis get along with fairies,” said Walsh, of Farmingdale. “Tasha Tudor, who writes children’s books, always has corgis in her stories where they are known to fairy folk.

“This is really cool. On Squirrel Island off Boothbay, there’s an enchanted forest. Everyone on the island has had a hand in it. There’s a 3-par golf course and bed and breakfast inn. It’s in a wooded area and they just keep adding on to it.”

The Gardiner fairy village project was the idea of Dorothy Washburne, chairman of Gardiner’s Conservation Committee.

“I heard about fairy houses out on Monhegan Island and I visited the (Coastal Maine) botanical gardens two years ago and said, ‘Wow! I think we could do something like that,’” Washburne said. “I brought the idea back and Tony Pied and Tamari Whitemore, who are on the committee, they jumped right on it. They were all for it.”

With the help of the Gardiner Public Library staff, the committee invited children to a fairy village program at the library Sept. 17. The program included stories about the construction of fairy houses followed by a walk down the nature trail, where they took part in constructing some of miniature-sized abodes.

“We had 28 kids and their families. We were so pleased,” Washburne said. “When they were finished building the fairy houses, they walked to the Blue Sky Bakery and they gave them a complementary fairy cake.”

Anne Davis, Gardiner librarian, said the fairy village was a way for children to learn how to respect the earth.
“They weren’t supposed to pull anything off the trees. Everything had to be found on the ground,” Davis said. “It’s a wonderful place to go see.”

Since then, other trail users have added to the village, which is modeled after fairy houses built on Maine islands and the botanical gardens in Boothbay.

She said the spot for the village, about a third of a mile down, was picked because of a group of birch trees. She said the Gardiner Rotary Club helped clean the area before the houses were built. And Becky and Harold McCulloch crafted the stick arch leading into the village.

She said anybody can go into the village and build houses out of materials found on the ground. An ordinance posted outside the fairy village lists the do’s and don’ts when designing a house.

“This is just another thing people have to do at the waterfront park,” Washburne said. “Someone’s added some houses since I was last here.”

The trail was hit hard by the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene: blown-down trees in sections and brush piled up along the trail, which will soon be picked up by the city’s public works crew.

A couple of weeks ago, high school students helped rake up the debris, she said.

Washburne does have one concern: vandals.

“Every time I come down here, I think, ‘Have they destroyed the fairy village?’,” she said. “And so far, so good.”

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663
[email protected]

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