Daphne Beck will miss Hurley Park

Published 10:38 am Thursday, October 19, 2017

In May of 1988, a 28-year-old grad student who finished her master’s degree from NC State University in outdoor recreation and natural resources became a summer employee at Hurley Park.

At the end of October this year, she will have completed 29 years and plans to retire.

Daphne Beck says she was lucky that her beginning working days as assistant curator started at Hurley Park. Beck originally thought she would end up with a state park job since she had interned at Mount Mitchell and Falls Lake in Raleigh.

In 1984-85 the city of Salisbury was creating the Annandale Avenue Park project. James F. Hurley heard about the project and talked with the city about naming the park after their mother, Elizabeth Holmes Hurley.        

In April 1988, a foundation in perpetuity was created to pay 50 percent of the yearly budget, including curator and assistant’s salary and maintenance. “Timing came at the right time for me. I wasn’t the best gardener, but I saw what needed to be done,” said Beck.

Jane Ritchie, the landscape architect for the park, was always a great back up and a great help in keeping her directed. Ritchie’s design for the park ensures that there is always something in bloom. It’s always fun to watch Jane lay out garden edges, said Beck.

Margo McIntyre, the first curator for Hurley Park, was resourceful in teaching Beck names of the many plants. “Hey what’s this?” McIntyre was always there to answer. She pointed out the blackberry lily, which I had never seen before. The two completed all of the gardening and maintenance from weeding and watering, leaf removal, mulching, planting new gardens and pruning.

They shared many years at the park which gave them a chance to learn a lot about mud, unusual plumbing, how to play pranks on each other and other employees and learning the one time they would sit down in a week, Jimmy Hurley would always drive by. “It was great to have a coworker to share fun and life with for 16 years,” says MacIntyre.    

City arborist Mark Martin and current curator assistant was a great support also.

Many owners walk their pets along the trails that lead to 45 gardens and while she recognizes all of them, she admits she knows all the pets’ names.

A cat named Autumn comes to a special spot each day to be fed by Beck. Cans of cat food can be found in her truck. Don’t be surprised to drive by as Beck gives a warm snuggle hug to Autumn, whom she calls the “supervisor” of the park.

She can also be heard talking to the plants, “Well, are you going to live or are you going to die?”

Private funerals are held by Beck as she comes across deceased animals.

In the spring, high schools swarm to the park for prom pictures. One day, a wedding was taking place at the same time. That was a busy day.   

Beck’s biggest worry has been about how dry it can get. They do have irrigation but there is nothing like good old rain, she says.

“I’m tired. I don’t know which is harder on you, trying to stay warmer in the winter or trying to stay cooler in the summer.”

Botanical gardens are normally found in larger cities. Hurley Park is a great asset to the town of Salisbury. The total 18 acres has a large collection of magnolias, hollies and azaleas.  Most of the gardens are posted with plaques that are memorials or in honor of someone.

There is a triangle section that is in memory of Beck’s mother, Margaret Ridenhour Beck and she admits several plants that her mother planted at her home have been transferred to that spot.

“It’s has always been a pleasure to work here to watch it grow. My heart is here, that’s all I really can say.”

Beck will miss seeing people walking around the trails and getting her hands dirty. Visitors don’t see the park as she sees it; crawling on the ground and being under bushes.

Beck’s future visits to the park after retirement will present a new long distance perspective and then, she will get the full effect of her hard work and time spent there.

In celebration for the parks 30th anniversary, free events will be held: an annual lecture and plant give-away will be on Thursday, Oct. 19, 7 p.m. at the Salisbury-Rowan Utilities Administration office; Margo MacIntyre will be guest speaker and a concert in the park with a Brass Quintet on Oct. 22 at 2 p.m. Bring a blanket or lawn chair.

Waterworks Visual Arts Center in partnership with The Hurley Park Foundation will present a juried group exhibition in celebration of the park’s pearl anniversary, The Seasons of Hurley Park: 30 Years.  Artists from all over North Carolina are invited to apply. There is no fee to enter.  The entry deadline is Oct. 20. Visit: http://www.waterworks.org/artistopportunities/callforartists.html for more information.