SPRINGFIELD — The city restored a bit of Forest Park history this month with the rebuilding of a pavilion that families have gathered under for picnics and celebrations for nearly a century.
The original pavilion, located in the picnic grounds across from the rose garden, was built in the 1930s as a Depression-era Works Progress Administration project but had fallen into major disrepair.
“It was a well-used rustic pavilion in a state of collapse,” said Robert McCarroll, chairman of the Community Preservation Committee, adding people have already started using the new one.
The funding for the $242,000 project was granted through the Community Preservation Committee, which decides how to allocate money from a 1.5% surcharge voters agreed to place on their tax bill to help fund open space, historic preservation, recreation and affordable housing.
“It might seem like a little thing but families young and old use it all the time,” Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said during the official ribbon cutting of the gazebo. “We have thousands of people who come to picnic here.”
Sarno said he remembers the pavilion when he would come to the park as a kid. It was painted green and even then it wasn’t in good condition.
“This is symbolic because there was always a picnic grove here and they have brought it back,” he said.
The project focused on replicating the original pavilion. The city contracted with the Skinner family, owner of the Barn Yard and Great Country Garages, based in Ellington, Connecticut, to create the 24 by 16-foot structure which is built with rough-milled posts and beams milled from local trees including cedar, white pine and Douglas fir.
One of the highlights is the railings that are made from twisted branches of mountain laurel used to create the railings which replicate the original, said Patrick Sullivan, executive director of parks, buildings and recreation management.
The pavilion restoration was just part of the project. It also included the addition of picnic tables installed on concrete pads and some landscaping and drainage work. An additional benefit is the grove and pavilion are now accessible to the disabled, Sullivan said.
“We are very happy with it. This will easily last 100 years,” he said.
He especially thanked the Community Preservation Committee, saying the project isn’t big enough to be eligible for other federal and state grants so it wouldn’t have been done without the help of the taxpayers’ commitment to the projects.
In researching the park’s history, Kathy Post, a member of the Forest Park Civic Association, said she has found some old maps and postcards that show there may have been an earlier pavilion constructed in the same spot dating back to the 1890s.
“We are thrilled. Forest Park, which is the center of our neighborhood, is just shining,” she said.