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Murray Journal

One woman’s quest to beautify Murray benefits the city to this day

Feb 22, 2022 09:40PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Murray Park Arboretum tree planting ceremony, with Park Superintendent Kyle Swallow, Joan Hardle, Mayor Bill Dunn, Clark Cushing, and Jack DeMann. (Photo courtesy of the Murray Museum)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Every week, hundreds of people walk through the arboretum at Murray Park, yet hardly anyone knows the story of the woman for whom that section of Murray Park is named. Joan Hardle’s tireless efforts to change Murray from an industrial hub to a city of parks still echo today.

Hardle hailed from San Francisco and spent much of her youth wandering the gardens of Golden Gate Park. When she and her husband, Bill, moved to Murray in 1949, Hardle took her obsession with flowers seriously, which would change her life history and the city she adopted.

In the 1950s, Murray was transforming from an active industrial complex after World War II into a suburban community. With the giant smelters starting to shut down and families moving in, the city turned its attention to Murray Park. The 50-year-old fixture of downtown Murray needed to expand for all the new families, like the Hardles, who were calling Murray home.

While the city was grappling with transforming the park, Hardle was taking classes in horticulture and beginning to master the art of gardening. By 1953, the Murray Eagle started reporting on Hardle’s flower creations, and by 1960 she was regularly winning awards on a national level.

Locals joined her Artistic Designer Club to learn from the master gardener, and Hardle was asked to preside over or judge local flower shows. At the same time, Murray City had organized a Shade Tree Commission, which started a project to plant trees throughout Murray Park. The commission decided to start with a few trees and plot out an arboretum north of the swimming pool, but they needed someone who could get excited about the project. Enter Joan Hardle.

As president of the Artistic Designers Club, she initiated a successful fundraising campaign to build a donors’ plaque monument in the arboretum. The monument, including a drinking fountain, was completed in September 1963 and continues to complement the arboretum today. Eventually, because of her enthusiasm for the project, she was made chairman of the Murray City Beautification and Shade Tree Commission.

Under her supervision, the city raised $1,000 to start the arboretum, including a cactus garden, many lilies, hundreds of tulips and daffodils, chrysanthemums, iris, dahlias, herbs and unusual trees and shrubs.

Hardle made the arboretum a resource for residents to see what local plants and trees would work best in their gardens. In addition, Hardle visited schools to excite children about beautifying their city. In 1965, she passed out zinnia seed packets to Murray schoolchildren. Her club held a flower show later, and over 500 entries were submitted, with 350 of them being zinnias.

However, she broadened the mission of the Shade Tree Commission and started to focus on Murray as a whole. Targeted on cleaning up Murray’s post-industrial self, Hardle created the “Hurray Clean Up Murray Days” campaign. The program was successful, with residents dejunking their yards and adding flower gardens. Murray City and the Artistic Designer Club were recognized across the state.

In helping her hometown, her actions resulted in her being made a delegate to the 1967 National Paint-up, Clean-up, Fix-up convention, to receive Murray’s award for distinguished achievement for cities with populations under 20,000. The following year, she was asked to address the convention on her efforts in Murray.

However, her most controversial actions came when she aimed at transforming State Street’s asphalt islands throughout Murray. In 1979, Hardle proposed turning some islands into flower boxes to help smooth traffic flow and add aesthetic value. Local businesses protested to the city council, fearing that the flower gardens would negatively impact them. However, the city council sided with Hardle, and one flower box still survives in downtown Murray.

Internationally, she received recognition for her efforts in Murray from the International Shade Tree Conference. After she died in 1981, the city renamed the arboretum, where she devoted so much time, as the “Joan M. Hardle Memorial Arboretum.”

One of her longstanding legacies is Murray’s designation as a “Tree City USA” by the Arbor Day Foundation. Murray has carried that distinction since 1977. In addition, former Salt Lake Tribune columnist Genevieve Folsom paid tribute to her in 1982 by saying, “She was responsible for Murray City becoming a leader in the West in beautifying streets, highways, and residential subdivisions.”