Bellows Falls Firefighters Memorial Park in the works

The Firefighters Memorial Park is anticipated for completion by Oct.10. Photo by Joe Milliken
The Firefighters Memorial Park is anticipated for completion by Oct.10. Photo by Joe Milliken

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – Work has begun on the square in Bellows Falls to recreate a new memorial park to be called the Brown Fuller Memorial Park. The firefighters’ memorial park will honor the memory of two Bellows Falls firefighters, Terry Brown and Dana Fuller, who tragically lost their lives fighting a fire at the Star Hotel Dec. 29, 1981.

A modest memorial park has already existed for decades on the location, adjacent to the Post Office, which includes two memorial benches in honor of the firefighters. However, the Bellows Falls Fire Department, along with town authorities, have wanted to do something more to honor these fallen, courageous men for quite some time.

In 2019, Bellows Falls Fire Chief Shaun McGinnis, with the blessing of the Rockingham Selectboard, applied for and received a state municipal planning grant from the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development to evaluate the Star Hotel site, as to transform it into a larger memorial park. Former Interim Town Manager Chuck Wise had written the municipal planning grant. The land is jointly owned by the town of Rockingham and Great River Hydro, which owns the Bellows Falls hydroelectric station.

Along with the nearly $7,000 grant they received, an additional $15,000 has also been raised through a GoFundMe page and a local fundraiser hosted by the local Bellows Falls business Flex Fitness. McGinnis said that another $15,000 would likely be needed to complete the park project.

The first step was recently taken when McClure Tree Service, based in Keene, N.H., removed all but one of the overgrown linden and crabapple trees on the park site. “The trees were taken down to prep the site and open up the view of the mountain,” McGinnis said in a recent interview. “A new town Christmas tree is also slated to be planted to replace the previous tree, which came down a few years ago.”

The Fire Department and Selectboard are currently working with designer, Jana Bryan, and the landscape architectural firm Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio of Bellows Falls in creating the new designs for the park.

The plan is to expand the park to also include sculptures of firefighter gear to honor the heroes, Brown and Fuller, as well as the planting of a large balsam fir tree, which will become the “community Christmas tree.” The memorial park will also serve as a common gathering space for other events in the downtown area.

There is a “dedication ceremony” scheduled on the day of the annual Bellows Falls Fire Department parade, and a memorial service is also planned for Dec. 29, which is the 40th anniversary of the fatal fire.

“The first plans that I saw for this park go all the way back to 1984, and now it’s all finally happening,” McGinnis added. “Our plan is to have the memorial park completed for the Bellows Falls Fireman’s Parade on Oct. 10.”

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