THE READER
June
2004

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Willy Street Park: The Stage is Set for Summer Fun

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Willy Street Park:
The Stage is Set for Summer Fun

Bill Jolin
WSGC Member


The stage is ready. One of those great volunteer things. The Stage in the Willy Street Park was begun years ago as part of the Park organizers’ mission to provide a venue for the arts. A special purpose in the bylaws of the community corporation is clear: “to encourage the presence and demonstration of artists, musicians, poets, prophets, orators and such other public or private events as are suitable for a neighborhood park.”


Volunteer Work
Volunteers do brilliant work, but unpaid civic projects do get delayed and sidetracked as life intervenes or other work becomes urgent. Therefore, the stage stood half-finished. Exemplary, but not much used. Recently a new volunteer, a dry stone craftsman, took an interest and decided to finish the project. Gyro Gantenbein found grant assistance from the Willy Street Co-op’s community reinvestment funds and went to work in spare time.
With occasional helpers, he pulled up the old paving, enlarged the design, and started hauling in sand and rock. With occasional helpers and other donations, the construction project took new life. It only took two years—life intervenes—but he finished the paving last fall, and the community has a completed performance space, long planned and wished for.


Solstice Celebration Planned
Another volunteer, Diane Michalski Turner, is organizing a Solstice Celebration to mark the event, at 7 PM Monday, June 21st in the Park at Williamson and Brearly. There’ll be music—Turner Collins will bring Celtic traditions—and ceremonies to celebrate with neighbors. Soft drinks will be served.


An Ice Cream Social
And there’s serious talk about an Ice Cream Social on Sunday, August 8th. Judi Wiesner, who has volunteered for many years, has talked about parasols and ice cream suits at every meeting, and can see how much fun it will be. More music, and ice cream for everybody. Everyone come and bring the kids!


The Beginning of the Park
Willy Street Park was begun by activists in 1978, in outraged reaction against an ugly little chain pizza outlet dumped off a semi truck on that lot. The pizza people were driven out, and the owner of the land was persuaded to sell it to the community. It is held by a non-profit community corporation.

The lot was mostly bare gravel. The neighbors, led by Dick Smith, began to turn it into a gardened park. They brought in soil and planted flowers and trees. The curved bench, in front of the stage, was built with community arts grants. The Park design provides an oasis of shade, open area, paths, a place to picnic. And gardens. The perennial garden blooms all summer, and the trees and shrubs make graceful green space under open sky, right on busy Williamson Street.

When you see a show of annuals in the Park, or a trim new arrangement of plants, someone has been gardening. Often a person or group will take over a patch for a season, and make a difference that the whole neighborhood enjoys. Gardeners know that it’s fun to be out, and the nicest way to meet the neighbors. The Park is a great place for visiting.


Donations and Volunteering
Everything in the park is done by volunteers, and with neighborhood donations. Willy Street Co-op has helped out a lot. When a volunteer built a garden shed a few years ago, the Co-op filled it with garden tools. Now the park is equipped, and anybody who wants to garden there can do so without having to haul stuff.

New volunteers are always welcome to garden, or do a project, or organize or donate, or pull weeds and help clean up and keep the community park open for everybody. For more information call me at 242-0712.