Portsmouth birdbath, gardens a labor of love

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PORTSMOUTH — Karen Harrington says her sister Kelley would have loved the birdbath being installed this week in a park across from the Common Fence Point Improvement Association (CFPIA) Hall.

“She liked to keep people together and happy,” Ms. Harrington said of her late sister, Kelley Ann Harrington Shearman, who passed away in December 2007 at the age of 43. “And this is keeping everyone together and happy, creating something beautiful.”

Indeed, there were smiles all around Monday as friends and family members — including Kelley’s two daughters, Laura, 18, and Kacey, 13 — dropped colorful stones into a mosaic pattern of a flower atop the birdbath, part of the “XO Garden” at Common Fence Point Park.

The CFPIA approved the beautification project in the playground/pond area. It involves transforming a slab of cement that was once the foundation for an old pump house into a tile mosaic patio. The birdbath is in the center, and shrubs and flowers will border the space.

The idea was conceived by Rose Escobar, an art teacher at Portsmouth High School, and Kacey, who attends Portsmouth Middle School.

The base of the birdbath will include a design honoring Kacey’s mom, who grew up in Common Fence Point and loved flowers and gardens, as well as two other late residents who dedicated their time and energy to maintain the park: Kenneth Ronald Travers and and Carolyn R. Barrett (“Cass”), both of whom died in 2011.

“They’ve all done so much for preservation and really loving and honoring this place,” said Ms. Escobar.

Several others have been working on the birdbath and surrounding garden area. Norman Escobar of NLE Carpentry (Ms. Escobar’s brother) and Tom Blouin, owner of TCB Construction, donated their tools and muscles for a day to pour concrete and install the birdbath foundation. Ronnie Travers and Scott Boyd bulldozed briars and brush from around the 20-foot square foundation. Jeanne Drapeau, a retired Portsmouth art teacher, is also involved in the project.

Jackie Shearman, who lives nearby and was instrumental in fund-raising to get the playground refurbished, was mixing cement Monday to glue the tile mosaics on the birdbath. The cement — more than $100 of it — was donated by Ray Caron of Allied Floor Covering, who also gave the volunteers half the tile for the project.

“They’ve been phenomenal with all of our community projects,” said Ms. Escobar.

Kids get engaged

Monday was a beehive of activity, as some of Ms. Escobar’s students, Kelley’s kids and other young relatives gathered around the wide birdbath to create their colorful glass flower. “I think it’s great to see the kids get engaged, do fun stuff and be part of the community,” said Jackie Shearman.

“My sister had beautiful gardens and she would have put this in her garden,” said Ms. Harrington.

Kasey nodded. “Probably — or in the shower,” she said, drawing laughs.

Her sister Laura was already thinking about a future project: “We should make a cat garden next, for all the cats.”

For the project’s second phase, families will be invited to help create the large patio tile mosaic under the birdbath. Donations for the project are still be accepted. For more information, click here

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.