Popular rock garden vanishes overnight

Rows of hand-painted stones bearing positive messages lined this corner, but were taken overnight between June 1 and 2. (photo by John Gregory)

Popular rock garden vanishes overnight

By John Gregory

A popular rock garden containing carefully placed painted stones with positive messages on a corner in Scripps Ranch disappeared overnight between Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2.

For years, residents had painted philosophical messages on oblong stones and carefully placed them in a patch of dirt along this northernmost corner of Erma Road as the street turns just before meeting Scripps Vista Way. Now, the stones are gone.

“It happened sometime during the night. I am devastated and heartbroken that someone would take them all,” said Bobbie Best McArdle, the creator and caretaker of this special garden of positive thoughts.

She has lived in Scripps Ranch for 21 years and started the painted rock garden in 2013. Bobbi painted most of the stones in the garden.

If someone didn’t know better, they would not realize the patch of earth on the corner was once occupied by hundreds of the colorful stones. Bobbie did such a thorough job of manicuring this area that it’s in immaculate condition. All that is left are a small seasonal banner, some plants and a few solar lights that help illuminate the corner.

Rows of encouraging messages used to appear on oblong stones in a special rock garden on the northernmost corner of Erma Road. (photo by John Gregory)

The management company for nearby Scripps Westview Condominiums put the subject of the rock garden on its homeowners meeting agenda once about four years ago, Bobbi recalled. When the group took a vote to see if the rock garden should be allowed, everyone voted unanimously that the rocks should stay because they had become too meaningful to the community to take away. They allowed the rock garden as long as Bobbie maintained the area.

Bobbi tended the garden about twice each week, pulling weeds and rearranging the stones. She added a few plants and found a small kinetic metal garden sculpture which now stands in the center. The art piece holds banners which she rotates to match the seasons.

She added more painted rocks and welcomed others to do the same. She noticed many children painted rocks and left them.

While Bobbi didn’t mind if someone would occasionally take a stone if it meant something to them, she was saddened that someone would take them all in one night.

“I do have this in perspective. I mean nobody died or anything,” she said. “Nonetheless, I am at a loss. It was my community passion project for six years that meant so much and brought me much pride and purpose because the whole community liked them.”

Pedestrians who passed this corner often stopped to read the messages, and several found strength from them as they were going through difficult times. Bobbi once met a woman near the corner who said she was going through a divorce and had battled cancer. The woman said she read the messages on the rocks several times and they put her in a better place. One young woman told Bobbi she would walk every night and read the messages and they would help her feel less lonely.

“I’ve lived here for eight years and this has always been such a positive thing,” said Terri Banks as she stopped at the corner. “It’s just sad that someone would just take this away.”

Colorful painted stones were carefully placed in the rock garden. (courtesy photo)

Banks said she walks her dog past the corner every day and was surprised to see the stones had been removed.

“It was like a therapy … We’ve all gone through different things in our lives and I see these rocks and I read them, and I connect with so much of it,” she said. “I read them from one end to the next because they’re always changing.”

While Bobbi was stunned by the loss, she stated that she would not mind if residents helped replenish the rock garden by painting new stones with messages and placing them at the corner. She thinks it would be a worthwhile effort if the community united to replenish the rock garden on its own behalf. This is a shining example of a simple, spontaneous community project that spreads joy, unites the citizens and costs nothing.

A flat, smooth stone is best, one without pores or holes. Bobbi suggests putting a clear gloss coat over the finished message, otherwise the sun will make the paint fade quickly. The painted stones can be placed at the end of Erma Road across from the tennis courts as it turns toward Scripps Vista Way.

(courtesy of Bobbie Best McArdle)
(courtesy of Terri Banks)
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