Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Discovered Treasure Amongst the Debris:

The Beginnings of a Park
by Jennifer Beverly, with C.A. Chicoine

In the spring of 2012, Price Chopper’s Continuous Improvement TEAM (Teammates Efforts Always Matter) focused their efforts on the neglected site of Fort Massachusetts. Jennifer Beverly, Becky Michalski, Lisa Alcombright, and Matthew Goodermote made up the TEAM. The then store manager, Patricia Pattison, was the facilitator of the group.

It started with a treasure hunt. Becky Michalski and Jennifer Beverly were hunting geocaches. And they were disheartened as to just how bad it was in there.

After discovering the placement of a GeoCache within the forested portion of the Fort Massachusetts site, the members of TEAM knew what they had to do. It was time to reclaim and rescue this historic site from what seemed like decades worth of trash and overgrown foliage.

The unforested portion of the site––where the boulder sits with its bronze tablet commemorating the fort and its defenders, given by the Fort Massachusetts Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1976––had shown signs of neglect. The shrubs that had been planted along its sides had not been manicured, and was significantly overgrown, causing moss to cover much of the stone memorial, along with the stone pillars surrounding it. And the chains linking the pillars had become thoroughly rusted. The fully grown tree, to the right of the boulder, still had its original supporting fence around it with several inches of debris built up at its base, which was decomposed into leaf mulch, and had many new trees weaving themselves in and out through the chain links. Much of the surrounding growth on the edges of the park had encroached this area as well, reducing the size of the park each year. 

Work began with the removal of the supporting fence from the tree, followed by a little grooming. 

After several attempts at manicuring the shrubs into something aesthetically pleasing, it became obvious that they were far beyond that point and would be quite bare for some time. So they cut the shrubs down towards the base with hopes that they'd regrow from their deep roots.

Becky Michalski

Jennifer Beverly

The group then shifted to the clean-up phase. After removing about a dozen bags of litter and debris, and having very little to show for it, the group decided to coordinate with the City of North Adams, and MCLA, to become a volunteer site for the city’s Spring Community Service/City Wide Clean-Up Day. With the help of seven Price Chopper teammates and their children, and ten MCLA volunteers, the group was able to remove over fifty bags of litter from the site along with many larger debris, which included, furniture, tires, computer monitors, a toilet, etc. This help was greatly appreciated by the group as they could now focus on the aesthetics of the park.

After the clean-up day, the group worked on cleaning the moss off of the stone marker and its pillars, along with giving the chains a protective layer of Rust-Oleum®  paint. 

Becky Michalski cleaning the moss off of the memorial.

A cherry blossom tree was planted behind the garden bed with the hope to accent the area as it grows, while tying it in with other areas within the city. 

Becky Michalski planting the baby weeping cherry blossom tree.

A new garden bed was created around the stone marker to emphasize its presence. 

Becky Michalski and Jennifer Beverly creating a garden bed and adding a little color.

The existing picnic table was scrubbed clean and then weatherproofed to help sustain it for many more years to come.
Lisa Alcombright weatherproofing the table.

The group then worked on creating a new shaded picnic area within the forest behind the stone marker. Lots of brush and leaves were removed as well as some partially decomposed litter. A new picnic table was purchased from Mr. Lescarbeau, who had created the other table years prior. And a new bench was added to the park for additional seating.

Over the years, many local residents had created a footpath through the forested part of the site. The group worked to clean up the path itself and line it with some fallen trees to encourage guests to stay on the path.

New signs had been added at the end of the path along within the park to try to help encourage people to stop dumping, littering, and smoking within the park to maintain its cleanliness.

The group had tried to obtain a trash receptacle to match those of the downtown. After coming up unsuccessful, they decided to design and create their own. The receptacle is built around a standard trash can with masonry bricks and mortar. Screw eyes were added to give the ability to hang signs from the trash receptacle itself to encourage guests to dispose of their trash properly.

The excess mortar was used to create a stone marker acknowledging their work.

From the very first moment that the Price Chopper management stepped forward to reclaim the park at the site of Fort Massachusetts, members of the community became involved. And positive feedback came pouring in from both local residents and tourists alike. Many chose to now utilized the park, where it had gone unnoticed prior. There was an immediate transition in the commentary for the Fort’s Geocache as well––from negative comments regarding the lack of care and amount of litter, to positive comments, praising how well maintained is was. The North Adam’s City Council, North Adams Chamber of Commerce, and the North Adams Historical Society genuinely thanked the group for their efforts to enhance a little piece of our local history.

With the closing of Price Chopper, back in February of 2016, the site of Fort Massachusetts was left to neglect once again. That is where the Friends of Fort Massachusetts come in––to preserve, commemorate, and protect the site of Fort Massachusetts as a memorial park. And they are grateful for all the work and effort the TEAM members put into the site. They trailblazed the way for Friends to carry on their endeavor, to preserve the site of Fort Massachusetts as a public park––The Fort Massachusetts Memorial Park.

[Jennifer Beverly has opened up her own shop this last July (2016), Eagle Street Artisans––a consignment-style artisan gallery, located at 27 Eagle Street, North Adams, MA., allowing local artists and artisans to display and sell their goods.]

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Beverly

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