SAXTONS RIVER, Vt. – The village of Saxtons River recently celebrated the opening of a new park, located along the banks of the Saxtons River, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by many local residents. There was also a reception following the ceremony at the nearby Saxtons River Historical Society.
Located on the grounds of a former abandoned gas station and the old Frey’s Mill site, the park had been under construction for several months and in the planning stages for decades. Other businesses that had occupied the space over the years included O’Connor’s Garage, Clayton’s Meat Market, and a blacksmith shop. The village of Saxton River was originally deeded the former Frey property in 1979.
According to Saxtons River Village President Louise Luring, the park will serve as a gathering place for various events, as well as a performance space. Luring is also the president of the local historical society. “We anticipate the park would be used for socializing, meditating, a playing area for kids, low-key musical happenings, dramatic presentations, and other community activities associated with the park.”
The old gas station building was demolished back 2010, but the building of the park had been delayed for several years because of pollution issues that required environmental testing, a remediation plan, and also archaeological research.
Designed by Julie Moir Messervy of JMM Design Studio in Bellows Falls, the $450,000 project was funded through a combination of both state and federal grants, including funds from the Environmental Protection Agency, which were utilized in cleaning the brownfield areas of the site.
“This is the completion of a wonderful project in Saxtons River, for we have been waiting for something to happen in this location for many years,” Messervy said. “What had once been a brownfield – soil polluted over the years by several sources – is now a place to gather, and to celebrate in this beautiful Vermont village.
“My JMMDS team and I worked closely with many people to create the design for this park. Some of these hard workers include the Saxtons River Trustees, the Park Committee, Angela Emerson and Alan Liptak of LE Environmental, Alan Huizenga and Green Mountain Engineering, Elisa Manning-Sterling of Hartken Archaeology Associates, Chris Company and Susan McMahon of the Windham Regional Commission, Rockingham Municipal Manager Wendy Harrison, Director of Public Works Everett Hammond, and the EPA and Joe Ferrari.”
The idea for the park was originally launched many years ago by the late Saxtons River Trustee, Ryan Ostebo. A natural amphitheater has been created on-site featuring large, granite stones, and two stone benches uniquely quarried from the nearby Parker Hill Road underpass.
Scott Wunderle of Terrigenous Landscape Architecture in Chester created the stonework. The general contractor of the project was Buck Adams Trucking & Excavating in Bellows Falls. Hawk Mountain Ironworks in Springfield created the ironworks, and Allen Brothers Farm Market in Westminster donated the planting. The park also features unique cobblestone-lined walkways and is handicapped accessible.