Energy, enthusiasm, creativity and fun are the necessary components for creating a sense of community. Sally Brawley and Bonnie Orr are bringing those attributes to bear as they seek to integrate our treasured Ohme Gardens back into the cultural and civic life of the Wenatchee Valley.

Orr and Brawley were deeply involved in the effort to rescue the park from the financially strapped State Parks Department and put it into the hands of Chelan County a decade ago.

But that sense of being engaged in the community has fallen off over the years and it hasn’t felt like Ohme Gardens is an important part of our community. But there is fresh leadership at the helm of Ohme Gardens in the person of Jason Browning and Orr and Brawley are volunteering their services to reenergize the Friends of Ohme Gardens.

This is the 90th anniversary of the gardens, which were started in 1929 by Herman Ohme. Ohme and his wife Ruth set their sights on transforming that outcrop of land into an alpine garden.

Virtually all of the work was accomplished by hand. Plants were brought from the mountains, watering was done by hand and rocks were carefully placed. It was a labor of love.

Gordon Ohme and his family took over the gardens after Herman died in 1971 and continued the work. Gordon Ohme put the gardens in the hands of Washington State Parks in 1991.

When Chelan County acquired it, the Ohme Gardens Friends Society went gangbusters developing ways for the local community to be involved in this unique place. They started a concert series, a Mother’s Day tea, morning bird walks and astronomy nights that drew significant crowds.

The Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce has been encouraging and supporting the effort to put Ohme Gardens back on the map for local folks. Out of towners have long appreciated the unique attributes of this special place, but local participation has fallen off.

So Brawley, executive director of Eastmont Metro Parks and Recreation, and Orr, who is a member of the Master Gardener program here, decided to step in and help out.

An Ohme Gardens Friends Society membership of $20 for an individual will get you an Ohme Gardens t-shirt and other benefits. But the really cool swag is the Ohme Homie T-shirt that can be had for an additional $20 contribution, or a total contribution of $40. Annual passes for the gardens are $60 for a family and $30 for an individual.

Orr and Brawley are working with surviving Ohme family members, including Brian and Kevin, to keep that family connection alive. What that family has created for our enjoyment is a treasure indeed.

The big goal for the 90th anniversary year is to raise $90,000 to support the park and the work that Jason Browning is doing as the manager of the facility. He brings great enthusiasm and an open mind to managing the park, I was told.

One significant project in the offing is rebuilding the Ox Yoke Lodge, which has been deteriorating.

A special 90th anniversary event is planned for Monday, Aug. 12, 4:30 p.m. at the gardens and refreshments will be provided. They’re hoping that this will spur people to become friends and volunteer to help the park regain its rightful place as a crown jewel of our valley’s assets.

What a pleasure it is to live in a community where so many people step up to help out and take a leadership role in making a difference. We are truly blessed to live in a place with amazing natural resources and great human beings.

To become a member of the Friends Society or to buy a season pass, check out

Rufus Woods is the publisher emeritus of The Wenatchee World. Contact him at 665-1162 or