Out & About: Woodstock group makes ‘the jungle’ more welcoming with park

  • The creation of Woodstock's East End Park, located along the Ottauquechee River, was spearheaded by volunteers. (Sustainable Woodstock photograph) Sustainable Woodstock photograph

  • Blueberries grow at Woodstock's East End Park. (Sustainable Woodstock photograph) Courtesy photograph—Courtesy photograph

  • Raspberries grow at Woodstock's East End Park. (Sustainable Woodstock photograph) Courtesy photograph—Courtesy photograph

Valley News Calendar Editor
Published: 7/31/2019 10:27:57 PM
Modified: 7/31/2019 10:27:47 PM

WOODSTOCK — Residents used to call it “the jungle.”

An overgrown parcel on the Ottauquechee River held a dense slice of nature that stymied access to the waterway, and it was home to Woodstock’s snow dump.

“It was considered an eyesore in our community for a long time,” said Zachariah K. Ralph, program coordinator for the nonprofit organization Sustainable Woodstock.

That began to change about a decade ago when Woodstock residents formed the East End Action Group.

“The original goals of the action group were to improve both the environmental and economic health of the east end of Woodstock,” said Mary MacVey, a member of the group. “Relocating the snow dump seemed a logical first step. Not only would that improve the environmental conditions, but it would also remove a major impediment to economic development there.”

As “the jungle” was cleared and the town’s snow dump was relocated, the East End Park was born.

Those efforts will be celebrated from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday during a picnic at the park, which sits on a more than 3 acres on Maxham Meadow Way across from Billings Farm & Museum. People can bring their own picnic or purchase food from a food truck serving the event.

“One) We want to showcase what we think are rather dramatic improvements since we’ve been able to add more infrastructure. And 2) We want to celebrate the contributions of scores of volunteers over the years,” MacVey said. “Now we are making a transformation from jungle to jewel. And it is kind of a jewel of a park.”

Among the improvements is the addition of a garden with edibles including raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and rhubarb. There’s a mini apple orchard. An Eagle Scout volunteer created stone benches, and there are new picnic tables. A stone staircase leads from the park and ride to the park below. Shrubs and boulders are dotted along the riverside to help prevent erosion, which got worse after Tropical Storm Irene hit the region in 2011.

“It’s got the only public access in the village to the Ottauquechee River, which is really key,” MacVey said.

Fishermen frequent the spot, and MacVey said she’s used it as a place to launch her kayak.

Ralph said the park also has provided an opportunity for an “educational experience for our community in how we address the problem of invasive knotweed,” and allowed for volunteers to try out different methods of controlling the invasive species — including mowing it, covering it in plastic and even bringing in goats.

One of the next major improvements Sustainable Woodstock and the East End Action Group are planning is an amphitheater “which will be fabulous for outdoor concerts and gatherings of some type,” MacVey said. “That will be transformative, I think.”

Like all the other projects in progress or completed at the park, it will be an entirely volunteer-led effort.

“They are committed to this idea for the right ideals: bringing something beautiful to our town,” Ralph said. “You couldn’t ask for better volunteers. They are just awesome.”

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Editor’s note: For more information about East End Park and the upcoming picnic, visit sustainablewoodstock.org or call 802-457-2911. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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