Watson Park pavilion nears finish

Friday, May 10, 2013


Staff Writer

A heavy-duty crane with its boom extended skyward was a sight to see for those visiting Watson Park on April 27, when the crane maneuvered into place the sections of a five-sided roof, a part of a 900-square-foot pavilion under construction.

The open-sided structure, funded through the Rotary Club of Merrimack, will be amenable to a multitude of uses – concerts, meetings, dance recitals, theater productions, educational seminars and many more activities.

Watson Park, an open green space of more than 10 acres bordered on one side by the Souhegan River, is located along Daniel Webster Highway, across the street from the Merrimack Fire Department’s central station, 432 D.W. Highway. The completion of the park’s pavilion is a step toward securing the goal of the park’s donors, Harold and Barbara Watson, who visualized the area as an open green space, a setting for outdoor enjoyment.

The Watsons recognized that the parcel of land, formerly used for industry and now renewed, offered a peaceful setting with an enticing view of water, sky, wildlife and trees, despite its location near one of Merrimack’s busiest roads – Daniel Webster Highway. The plan to beautify the park originated in 2006. The Watsons and the Watson Park Committee concurred that the plan could become a reality.

The passing of several years brought the establishment of a Master Plan that included a pavilion on the southside of the park. The area, called the River Outlook, is substantially distant from the highway and traffic noise. The pavilion’s 360-degree view, access to plentiful parking and to the park’s picnic facilities are benefits much appreciated by those supporting the evolving park project. Landscaping will provide a grassy perimeter, studded perhaps with some flowers.

Three of many residents endorsing the project met at the pavilion on May 1, to take a look at the progress. There, Rotarian Peter Flood and his wife, Jackie, a longtime supporter of the park’s establishment, along with Sherry Kalish, director of the Merrimack Parks & Recreation Department, admired the construction. The Parks and Rec office is working in partnership on the Rotary Club’s project and with a pavilion subcommittee chaired by longtime advocate Phil Straight.

Peter said he credits a multitude of volunteers whose efforts are coming to fruition at the park. A large, hand-lettered signboard, erected near the pavilion, lists dozens of contributors of funds, materials or labor.

The pavilion is named the Roger Duhamel Pavilion, in honor of the longtime Merrimack builder and Rotarian; woodworking bears his name. The crossbeams of the roof are engraved some of Duhamel’s ideals: Fairness, Honesty, Integrity.

The Rotary Club wanted to fund a project that would honor the man and be an asset for years to the town.

“We’ve raised about $40,000 to pay for the necessities,” Peter Flood said. “More funds will help bring in electric and landscaping. Any contribution can be tax-deductible and is most welcome.”

Donations can be made to the Rotary Club of America Foundation, P.O. Box 181, Merrimack, NH 03054.

Kalish looked up and admired a Rotary International emblem with centrally radiating spokes that give the image the look of a strong, working gearwheel. The wood of the pavilion and its new roof is Douglas Fir, renowned for its own strength and durability.

The peak of the roof sections was capped with a small evergreen tree. According to online sources, the practice is called “topping out” and can be traced to ancient times when celebrations were in order at the end of a project. Modern builders continue the practice, mostly to indicate that the structure has reached its full height.

Jackie Flood stood upon the pavilion’s cement floor and looked out at the sweeping view as seen from beneath the new roof. She marveled at the accomplishment. She mentioned that the Town Center Committee has plans for a trail linking an elementary school, an upper elementary school, and the high school to the park. All the schools are within a short walk.

“The Rotary takes on such amazing projects,” she said. “This is one of them. We hope the Watsons are pleased with the pavilion.”

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