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Walpole, MA – September 14, 2011 – One of the largest non-profits in Massachusetts, and the nation’s oldest statewide land conservation organization, The Trustees depends on thousands of hours of volunteer time each year to help run and manage its 106 reservations for public use and enjoyment – one of which is the beloved Bird Park in Walpole. Last year, generous volunteers donated nearly 60,000 hours of their time to The Trustees, up from 50,000 hours the year before.
This year at the Francis William Bird Park, a dedicated group of local Walpole and Norwood residents helped The Trustees and the Friends of Francis William Bird Park to raise over $40,000 to help build a new playground structure for the park. The playground’s opening is currently planned for early October thanks to the efforts, special events and fundraisers led by this group of devoted and passionate volunteers.
On September 7th, The Trustees and The Friends of Francis William Bird Park celebrated the dedication of one very special volunteer, Philip Conway, who has been involved in making Bird Park such a unique and special place for over 12 years. Phil has served as Chairman of the volunteer group for over a decade and has recently decided to take less of a leadership role. To honor Phil’s commitment to Bird Park, Greater Boston Regional Director Steve Sloan presented Phil with a certificate from The Trustees. During Phil’s term as Chairman he has been involved with many projects over the years including two playground projects, the restoration of the Washington St. Memorial Gate, numerous masonry repairs, the re-installation of the flagpole, and several concerts every summer. Phil looks forward to continuing to volunteer at the park, and supporting The Trustees.
Jim and Betty Logan, of Walpole, knew about The Friends of Francis William Bird Park for a long time and had been generous donors to the group. When they heard about the playground project, they wanted to get involved with the efforts led by The Trustees of Reservations and the Friends to raise funds for a new swing set. Since becoming involved with the project a year ago, they have helped out at various events, including Walpole day, the group’s fundraising yard sale and ice cream social. While it’s provided them the opportunity to give back to their community, they say that volunteering with The Trustees and the Friends of Francis William Bird Park provides them with the reward of seeing something important get accomplished and the benefit of getting to meet like-minded new people who are actively involved in giving back to their community.
Francis William Bird Park was a familiar place to Walpole’s Brian Blaquiere and his family. They enjoyed the park frequently after the birth of his three year old son. In fact, they spent so much time there that they decided to buy a house in the area, eventually moving into a home on Pleasant Street, directly across from the Bird Park and within walking distance to the playground. One week after moving in, the playground was removed due to structural issues.
“As you can imagine we were pretty disappointed since we chose this location for the park and the playground,” Brian says. “It was then I decided I wanted to somehow help replace the playground. For the next six months I worked on the house night and day so I didn't have any time to look into who owned the park or who I could contact to offer my services.”
Finally, this past December, Brian’s neighbor, Jay Lenza asked him if he wanted to attend a meeting of the Friends of Francis William Bird Park. At that meeting, Brian found out about The Trustees, who owned the park, and their important programs, including fundraising for a new playground at the Bird Park.
Since joining the Friends, Brian has managed the fundraising efforts for the new playground, along with Jay Lenza and Josh Hasenfus of The Trustees of Reservations. Their activities have included visiting 80-90 businesses in the area and asking them for donations, following up with businesses to remind them of the playground project, submitting grants with local banks and national businesses, and writing press releases for the local newspaper. There have also been a number of important events and activities, including a table at Walpole Day, a town-wide yard sale fundraiser and an ice cream social at the Bird Park.
The most rewarding part of this process for Brian has been meeting people in the community and having the knowledge that what he is doing will benefit many people. “Plus working closely with people who have the same goals as you do,” he says. “I have gotten to know my neighbor very well through this process and our families are good friends now.” Brian has also learned what an incredible time commitment and effort this kind of process can be but is proud of the results they have achieved in a very short amount of time.
Another Walpole resident, James Lenza had been a frequent visitor to The Trustees of Reservations’ properties over the years and knew that nearby Francis William Bird Park was among the organization’s special places.
“The park was a significant factor in our decision to live in East Walpole,” he says. “It helps make our neighborhood more of a community, and getting involved seemed like a great opportunity to connect with other people in East Walpole, as well as to get involved with some decision making whenever possible.”
Since joining the Friends of Francis William Bird Park, James has been heavily involved in the fundraising efforts for the new playground. Although he had no prior experience doing this kind of work, he has been instrumental in designing some of the fundraising effort’s important tools. He says, “I designed the project plan we used for our fundraising efforts, as well as other signs and print/online collateral to help boost awareness for fundraisers we've held or will be holding in the near future. I also operate and maintain the Friends' Facebook page.”
All of the positive energy and active participation from James and his fellow volunteers, he says, brings contributes to a better end result, regardless of the effort. He says that being part of this group is rewarding because, “I can connect better with our community and collaborate with those people to find solutions that will best suit the needs of everyone in the area.“
These are just a few examples of the volunteers who have been instrumental in this important and rewarding process. Other important members of the Friends of Francis William Bird Park include Walpole residents Phil Conway, the Chairman of the Friends of Francis William Bird Park, Larry Pitman, Larry Parente, Jim and Betty Logan, Roger Culp, Melissa Gehman, Rocco Guarnagia, Roger Thomas, Becky Seibens and Richard Anthony, as well as Norwood resident Marguerite Krupp. The Trustees and the Friends of Francis William Bird Park also extend their thanks and appreciation to all the local individuals and organizations whose generous donations made this project possible.
The Trustees of Reservations’ Josh Hasenfus, Francis William Bird Park Property Manager, says, “I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to all the volunteers who have made the playground project such a success. The dedication, hard work, and enthusiasm displayed for the project were truly overwhelming and the results of their efforts will be enjoyed for decades to come.”
More about Francis William Bird Park
Francis William Bird Park has provided Walpole residents with an oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of suburbia since its creation in 1925. Its purpose since the beginning has been to provide an idyllic outdoor amenity for the public that both offers respite from busy daily life and promotes healthy recreational activity. The rolling fields lined by tree groves, a trio of ponds, and gurgling brooks comprise a lovely natural tableau.
The park's carefully maintained lawns and water elements are especially attractive to visitors, but the communities of trees that accent so much of this landscape are lovely as well – and provide welcome shade and shelter for picnickers or for those who simply desire a little isolation. The park was designed for active play – bike racks, a "tot" lot, tennis courts, a basketball net, and a bathing-pool-turned-pond are testaments to park designer John Nolan's belief that play should be an active part of the park experience.
More than just playgrounds and picnicking, the park also provides a place for many activities and events. Concerts, town-wide yard sales, ice cream socials, school field days, private events such as weddings, and many other activities take places throughout the year. This October, The Trustees of Reservations and its volunteers invite you to Pumpkins in the Park, as they illuminate the pathways and ponds with pumpkins. Bring your family and friends - along with a carved pumpkin and a small candle - to the area around the Willow Pond (Rhoades Ave.) View all the Jack-O-Lanterns and vote for your favorite. Listen to ghost stories and play games with treats to follow. For more information about the park or any of the events or volunteer opportunities there, contact Josh Hasenfus at 508-668-6136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More about The Trustees of Reservations
The Trustees of Reservations is the nation’s oldest, statewide land conservation organization founded by open space visionary Charles Eliot in 1891 to “hold in trust,” and care for properties of scenic, cultural and natural significance. Supported by members, donors and thousands of volunteers, The Trustees own and manage 105 spectacular “reservations” located on more than 26,000 acres in 75 communities throughout Massachusetts significance for current and future generations to enjoy. The Trustees work to promote healthy, active, green communities locally and around the state by providing hundreds of year-round programs, events and engagement opportunities for all ages. Most property entry fees, programs and events are free-of-charge or heavily discounted for members.
Accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, The Trustees are an established leader in the conservation movement and model for other land trusts nationally and internationally. To find out more about membership, volunteer, job and other engagement opportunities with The Trustees visit http://www.thetrustees.org.