When you think of New England, you picture quaint downtown shops, white picket fences, church steeples and a Village Green. For most of history in New England, the Village Green was the place where Town-wide events were held and signs or kiosks were erected to act as the Town Crier, notifying the Townspeople of upcoming events and activities. There were park benches for you to sit on and watch the world go by. Sometimes, a gazebo was erected to act as a bandstand for various musical events and celebrations. And often there was an evergreen tree that was decorated during the holiday season. In Lenox, that place is Lilac Park.
HISTORY OF THE PARK
Lilac Park consists of one and one-half acres of land located in the middle of Lenox’s Historic District. It serves as the Town’s Village Green, and is currently host to three craft fairs during the summer months. Within its borders is located the Lenox Academy and the Congregational Chapel. Add in the nineteen park benches located throughout the park, and you have all the charm of a small New England town.
In 1908, this land was given to the Town by the Servin family, and was initially planted with lilacs donated from the gardens of the nearby private estates. By 1953, the park had fallen into such disrepair, it was targeted as a possible site for a parking lot.
Mr. and Mrs. John L.B. Brooke, abutters to the north, commissioned Lyle Blundell to draw up a plan of restoration. The Lenox Garden Club implemented that plan, and the park was saved. Unfortunately, maintenance was sporadic, and the lilacs were left unattended. Over time, red maples and weeds completely destroyed the original design.
In 1991, the Lenox Garden Club, assisted by the Town, took on the job of restoring the park to look as it did in the 1950s. Lyle Blundell’s design was reimplemented by Okerstrom-Lang. Brush and trees were removed, overgrown lilacs pruned, beds raised for better drainage and one hundred named lilacs were planted. In addition, ten Canadian hemlocks, lots of groundcover, small shrubs, 1500 daylilies and two carloads of spring bulbs were carefully planted and covered with mulch. With the addition of the benches, you have a project that took four years to complete.
In order to preserve the park and keep it as beautiful and tranquil as possible, the Board of Selectmen has tried to limit any use of the park that might otherwise detract from its peace and quiet.
However, with increased interest in utilizing the park, it is now time to re-examine the current Craft Fair Policy and in particular, to determine acceptable uses for the park and to create a Lilac Park Use Policy.
MISSION/VISION OF THE PARK
Lilac Park is a large green space located in the center of Town whose primary purpose is to provide areas for reading, lounging on expanses of grass, exploring the gardens, and other forms of passive recreation. Occasionally, the park serves as a gathering spot for community events.
Lilac Park is considered to be an “ornamental park” or public garden which should only be used for low impact public activities rather than regular, intensive uses which could cause damage to the plantings and the character of the grounds.
Lilac Park should continue to expand and diversify its collection of lilacs for the enjoyment of all. The park should also continue to provide spaces for individuals to escape the rigors of everyday life and find respite in the park. The stewards of Lilac Park should endeavor to protect the park from any future threat of development other than that outlined here.
THE MASTER PLAN FOR THE PARK
In October 2001 a Comprehensive Plan for Lilac Park was created by Greylock Design Associates. It covered maintenance issues such as pruning, fertilization and soil needs, common diseases and insects that are enemies to the lilac. It also included a comprehensive plant listing as well as a planting configuration.
THE ROLE OF THE LENOX GARDEN CLUB
The Lenox Garden Club has, and will continue to, play a vital role in the rejuvenation of Lilac Park. Not only are their services necessary in order to keep the park beautiful, but their input is invaluable as the Town strives to maintain the park. The Town welcomes the guidance and input the club provides on issues related to park use and upkeep. Funds are invested annually by the Lenox Garden Club for park improvements, as well as countless hours of donated labor toward new plantings and bed care.
The DPW is primarily responsible for the maintenance of Lilac Park. The list of items includes the following:
- mow/trim once a week
- collect garbage three times a week
- rake leaves once or twice a year
- deliver wood chips once or twice a year
- turn water service on in the spring and off in the fall
- remove trees or tree limbs as needed
- paint the cannon when required (last time was in 1997)
- fertilize the lawn (done for the first time in 2000)
- supply trash receptacles
- install concrete bases for the park benches
- remove Christmas tree if necessary
- inspect park for any damage following craft fairs
POLICIES REGARDING CRAFT FAIRS
The Selectmen’s Office began receiving numerous requests to hold various events in Lilac Park. In order to be consistent and treat each request equally, it was agreed that a policy was necessary which would address the issues concerning events, and more specifically craft fairs, being held in the park.
Accordingly, in December of 1993, the Board of Selectmen adopted a “Craft Fair Policy on Use of Lilac Park”. It was subsequently amended in October of 1995, 1996 and 2000. The policy covered who was eligible to use the park, what the required fee was and other pertinent criteria such as traffic control, parking, signage, noise, etc.
For many years, this Craft Fair Policy was more than adequate to accommodate the needs of those who used Lilac Park for a craft fair. However, it started to become obvious that times were changing. Other groups were interested in utilizing Lilac Park for affairs such as weddings and musical events. Unfortunately, the current Craft Fair Policy did not address the needs of such events. It was agreed that a new Lilac Park Use Policy needed to be created.
POLICIES REGARDING OTHER USES
The Town is host to many events throughout the year – A Taste of Lenox, the Apple Squeeze, the Tub Parade, A Lenox Holiday – to name just a few. In addition, during the summer months, Lilac Park is home to three annual craft fairs.