National Park Foundation's "First Bloom" Program Plants Roots in Salem Maritime National Historic Site

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Date: May 28, 2010
Contact: Emily Murphy, 978-740-1691
Contact: Mark Shields, 202-354-6480
Contact: Mary Williamson, 978-740-0444x14

Innovative Conservation Program Teaches Urban Youth About and Restoring Native Habitats

(SALEM, Mass., May 21, 2010) – Area youth from the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem will plant a garden of native plant species in Salem Maritime National Historic Site on June 5. For the second year, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem is participating with Salem Maritime and the Essex National Heritage Commission (Essex Heritage) in the National Park Foundation’s “First Bloom” program.

First Bloom gives 4th through 6th grade urban students firsthand experience in national parks, encouraging long-term environmental stewardship while teaching them about native and invasive plant species. Giving students ownership of the garden from planning to maintenance, the program allows the National Park Service to extend its mission beyond park boundaries.

“It is wonderful to see these kids so excited about working with closely with park staff and planting and maintaining ‘their’ garden at the Derby House,” says Salem Maritime Superintendent Patricia S. Trap. “The National Park Service is pleased to continue to nurture our partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem. This important relationship helps us share our historic and cultural resources with area youth who may have limited or no experience with the Park.”

“Integral to the children’s First Bloom experience is the opportunity for them to visit and learn at other sites within Essex County, including Lowell National Historic Park, Saugus Iron Work National Historic Site, Long Hill in Beverly and Salem Harbor,” adds Essex National Heritage Commission Executive Director Annie Harris. “This is another example of Essex Heritage and the National Park Service partnering to provide opportunities for youth to develop an appreciation for Essex County’s cultural, historic and natural resources.”

First Bloom youth from the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem created a detailed plan for a portion of the Derby House garden based on discussions with Salem Maritime Park Historian Emily Murphy, garden design research, and information about native and non-native plants that they learned through the program. In addition to bearing in mind historically appropriate 18th century garden plants and their uses, the youth considered functional as well as aesthetic goals, such as height, color and bloom season, for their plan choices. The garden design plan includes:

  • Adding historically appropriate native perennials including: New England aster, native columbine, native strawberry, purple coneflower, crested iris, meadow lily, cardinal flower, blood root, wild geranium, swamp mallow, native phlox, bee balm, great blue lobelia and blue flag iris
  • Removing invasive yellow flag iris
  • Identifying new plants that bloomed this spring, then determining if they are native or invasive
  • Leaving some plants in place, such as tickseed and culinary herbs

This year, for the first time, First Bloom participants will be competing in a national program called the “Native Gardens Contest.” Each First Bloom youth will design his or her own garden and submit it to a website where the public will be able to vote for a favorite. The contestant with the most votes will receive a trip to a national park for his/her First Bloom Youth Group. To view the contest, and vote for a garden, visit the Native Garden Contest

“One of the most important things anyone can do for the environment is to connect young people to parks,” said Neil Mulholland, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “Kids who are forging connections with the national parks today, are likely to have lasting relationships with the parks and the outdoors for their whole lives.”

First Bloom connects kids between 4th and 6th grades to nature and national parks. The nationwide program is currently taking place in 26 national parks in partnership with 31 youth groups across the country. First Bloom kids meet with park rangers monthly over one program year, approximately September 2009 to June 2010. They engage in outdoor, hands-on activities and learn to love the outdoors and their national parks. Toward the end of the program, youth involved plant a native landscape at a national park. That landscape is a lasting connection for those youth, a transferable experience, and a feature that all future visitors to the park will enjoy. To learn more about the First Bloom program, visit

First Bloom programs around the nation were generously supported by the UPS Foundation, ARAMARK Parks and Recreation, and gifts from private donors and foundations.


ABOUT SALEM MARITIME NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE Salem Maritime National Historic Site was designated in 1937, the first National Historic Site in the National Park Service system. The nine acre site includes the homes of merchants and mariners, the Salem Custom House in which the famous author Nathaniel Hawthorne worked, and a replica of the three-masted cargo vessel Friendship. Today, the rangers and volunteers of Salem Maritime NHS continue to inform and inspire visitors with the maritime history of New England and the United States. For more information, visit or call (978) 740-1650.

ABOUT THE ESSEX NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA AND ESSEX HERITAGE Designated by the US Congress in recognition of the important role that this region played in American history and the nationally significant sites that still remain intact, the Essex National Heritage Area is comprised of the 34 communities in Essex County, MA. Essex Heritage is a non-profit agency that manages the Heritage Area, and works in collaboration with the National Park Service to promote public-private partnerships, and develop programs that enhance, preserve and encourage regional awareness of the Area’s unique historic, cultural and natural resources. For more information, visit Essex Heritage at or call (978) 740-0444.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION You are the part-owner of 84 million acres of the world’s most treasured landscapes, ecosystems, and historical sites -- all protected in America’s nearly 400 national parks. Chartered by Congress, the National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks. We work hand in hand with the National Park Service to help connect you and all Americans to the parks, and to make sure that they are preserved for the generations who will follow. Join us – This is Your Land.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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