Serenity Gardens in East Islip will cater to people with visual and...

Serenity Gardens in East Islip will cater to people with visual and hearing impairments, Alzheimer’s or dementia, on the autism spectrum, seniors and veterans, organizers said.  Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Islip Town officials have started preliminary work on a sensory garden, the first of its kind in the town for people with different abilities, which organizers hope to open within a year. 

The one-acre park known as Serenity Gardens, which has been in the works since 2019, will be located at the town-owned Brookwood Hall in East Islip. It will cater to people with visual and hearing impairments, Alzheimer’s or dementia, on the autism spectrum, seniors and veterans, organizers said. Officials hope the garden will provide people of all abilities a way to enjoy nature in an environment constructed for their individual needs.

Behind the garden is the nonprofit Parks Foundation of Islip Town, which hopes to spruce up town parks through private donations. Serenity Gardens is the foundation’s first project and landscaping will begin within the next two months, foundation chairman John King said. Crews have recently started clearing the land. The garden will be funded entirely by donations and won't rely on public money, King said.  

The $2 million garden will open within a year, Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter told Newsday. The idea for the parks foundation was spearheaded by Carpenter, who said it was on her "wish-list" of things she'd like to accomplish as town supervisor. Parks Commissioner Tom Owens said the foundation's work can enhance parks in a way that wouldn't be possible solely with town funds. 

“The thing we like about it is we talk about being inclusive and reaching out … this is a physical example that people can drive by, go visit and go see,” Carpenter said last Wednesday. She said the garden is a “visible sign that we truly are an inclusive community in every way.” 

The park will include lush plants, vertical gardens, calming colors, Braille and sensory walking paths — “everything that appeals to the senses,” King said. The foundation has engaged local groups that focus on Alzheimer’s and autism to ensure future garden amenities meet the needs of the targeted groups. 

King described the garden as “a park within a park.” The garden will be enclosed as a safety precaution so visitors don’t wander from their families or caregivers. It will be open to all visitors, he said, not just Islip Town residents. While it will be the town’s first, King hopes it won’t be the last.

“We’re hoping to be a model for other communities to copy it down the road,” he said.

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