Veterans Monument Park a community undertaking

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Andover - posted Mon., Aug. 1, 2011
The new Andover Veterans Monument Park sign is unveiled. Photo by Roger Maynard. - Contributed Photo

There has been a lot of activity over the past several months at the Andover Veterans Monument Park at the corner of Route 316 and Route 6. The park was created in 1992 to honor the town’s war heroes. The town's Beautification Committee has been planting geraniums and flower buckets there just prior to Memorial Day, and placing winter greens at the site for the winter season.

The task was taken on by two of Andover’s senior citizens, George Collette and Barbara Foran. Together, they planted the flowers and watered them all summer long. Collette rigged up a contraption to carry several gallon jugs of water across town to the site for watering. After Collette passed away this winter, Foran continued the task, with the assistance of her son.

In 2002, the state, which still owned the land, implemented some changes in the area. The project included creating better site lines, fixing the curve and changing the elevation of Route 6 in the area. This required the razing of a couple of buildings, including the Old Creamery, a historic landmark which by this time had been transformed into a rundown apartment building. At the conclusion of the “Route 6 Safety Improvement Project,” the Department of Transportation had the creamery’s well capped, re-graded the landscape and planted small trees and shrubs in the area, along with installing a sign indicating the Old Creamery once stood here.

By 2006, the area was showing signs of neglect. The area was being mowed by the town, but weeds were appearing among the plants installed by the DOT. This prompted residents to gather in November 2007 for the first cleanup day at the park. “They came with rakes, shovels, weed whackers and a variety of hand tools,” said organizer Dianne Grenier. “In just three hours, they were able to make a difference.” Since that first work party in 2007, residents have gathered just before Memorial Day and just before Veterans Day every year to attend to the park.

The property was officially turned over to the town of Andover in November 2009, setting in motion a campaign to raise funds for a new sign, and paving the way for the town to begin an effort to reactivate the Old Creamery well, so that Foran and future park volunteers would no longer have to lug water across town to tend to the park’s plantings.

The journey to the well was a long one, involving multiple municipal and state departments and countless volunteers. Andover Sanitarian Holly Hood ascertained that the requirements for a well that would be used only for watering flowers were minimal. State Rep. Pam Sawyer assisted in identifying the contractor that had been hired to do the work along Route 6 and in obtaining their records. Local resident Jim Fitting was able to get GPS coordinates of the four corners of the Old Creamery from an old satellite photo and translate them to the location.

Geoff Bayersdorfer from Griffin Dewatering-New England “couldn’t have been more helpful,” said Grenier. Bayersdorfer offered to help locate the well and install a new well pump. Jonathan Wright, an Andover resident and Griffin Dewatering employee, assisted as well. Andover resident Charlie Minicucci, of M&M Oil Co. of Bolton, volunteered to dig the trench for electricity to the pump. But the old well still had to be located.

This spring, Jim Fitting spoke with a DEP co-worker, Frank Bartolomeo, who offered to come help with his magnetic utility locator, used by the DEP for locating underground tanks and other buried items. “He found what he was sure was the location of the well cap,” said Grenier. “Using a posthole digger, Jim and Frank took turns digging a four-and-a-half-foot-deep hole to locate the well cap,” said Grenier. “No luck.”

First Selectman Bob Burbank offered the help of the town road crew and equipment to dig deeper. With their assistance, the well cap was finally located nearly 8 feet beneath the surface. Minicucci and Bayersdorfer arrived on the site with a backhoe, and on July 15 water was again flowing to the site.

On July 24, a new sign identifying the park was unveiled. “Funds were raised thanks to the generous donations of 75 residents,” said Grenier. “A retaining wall will soon be built around the sign by Andover Landscaping that will be filled with plants by the Beautification Committee. Andover resident and electrician Chip Ware will be installing spotlights provided by Ace Hardware of Hebron so the sign can be lit at night. The sign, garden and lighting are all being provided through donations, with no tax dollars being used,” said Grenier.

“This was a big community project that required the help of many generous people donating their time, skill, materials, equipment and general know-how to help bring water to the newly-established Andover Veterans Monument Park,” Grenier said. “The new sign will be seen by the occupants of over 18,000 cars a day… [and] will say to our veterans every day, ‘You are important to us, and we care.’”

On Aug. 4, Grenier hopes to get the Andover Board of Selectmen to reconsider the issue of whether and how to rededicate the Andover Monument Park on Veterans’ Day of 2011. The issue was taken up at the July 1 meeting, but then tabled when concerns regarding details of the event could not be resolved.

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