Town studying use, improvements at Silver Lake Park

  • David Gaspar of Athol, who initiated the project to make improvements to Silver Lake Park, explains concerns and ideas for specific areas in the park. To the left, Robbe Verhofste, one of the two graduate students from the Conway School of Landscape Design who is working on the Silver Lake Park Master Plan to develop design alternatives. Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

  • David Gaspar of Athol, who spearheaded the Silver Lake Park improvement project leading to the development of a master plan, explains areas of interest and concern listed by members of the community. Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

  • Bo Carpen and Robbe Verhofste, graduate students of the Conway School's Sustainable Landscape Planning and Design program working on the Silver Lake Park Master Plan listen to David Gaspar's summary of ideas and concerns about the park collected during a community meeting at the Town Hall on Thursday night. —Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

Staff Writer
Published: 5/13/2019 9:55:20 PM

ATHOL — About 25 people, including area residents, town employees and local committee members attended an interactive design discussion in Liberty Hall Thursday night. The meeting was aimed at gathering feedback for the Silver Lake Park Master Plan.

Two graduate students from the Conway School’s Sustainable Landscape Planning and Design program, Bo Carpen and Robbe Verhofste, attended a kick-off meeting at the Town Hall last month to collect information and ideas to develop design alternatives for the 42-acre park. The project was approved by voters at a town meeting last October.

Carpen told the group Thursday that the goal for the meeting was to learn how they use Silver Lake park and their visions for it. The students gave a 15-minute overview which showed the uniqueness, ecology and history of the lake, how its use has grown over the years and the goal to enhance the park experience.

Participants filled out a questionnaire that asked about their park use and if there is anything that limits their use. They were also asked to think about their experience in the park over the different seasons with considerations such as whether they think there is enough shade in the summer or space on the beach. Another question was how parking and accessibility could be improved.

A map of the park was provided for each person to identify their three favorite places such as fishing spots, views and walking routes and to include reasons why. They were asked to do the same for three problem areas or areas that could use improvement. The students also asked everyone to list three new features and their locations where they think would most benefit the community.

Each table of participants formed into individual groups to vote on their favorite and biggest problem areas in the park. A team spokesperson placed green (favorite) and red (problem) dots on a large group map to indicate the choices, and explained the reasons.

Favorite areas and aspects included the pavilion (with more community use), the ball fields, the natural beauty of the lake, the wildlife, the loop around the park, the fishing on the north side of the lake, views, and the trees near the ball field that provide shade in the summer.

Tallied problem areas and areas that could use improvement included: steep slopes to the north of the lake, stagnant water near the Silver Lake Cemetery entrance to the park, the condition of the loop road and stone wall, erosion around stairs and trees along ball fields, the beach, the lack of separation between pedestrians and cars, the cement slab at the former skate park, the width of the road, and park security. Desired uses and features included a separate walking path around the lake with safe pedestrian space, and green space near the pavilion with historic structures.

Carpen and Verhofste will refine the Silver Lake Park Master Plan based on the information collected and present it at a second community meeting to be held on May 30 at 6 p.m. at the Athol Town Hall. All ages are invited to attend.

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