Amherst park construction picks up pace

The construction of Amherst’s newest park looks increasingly certain to start in early spring.

Park organizers report forming construction and community-garden committees for Joshua’s Park. Both committees, along with the playground committee, are digging into the details of moving dirt and installing garden, playground and other equipment.

The fundraising drive has been reaping a steady flow of money, even though the challenge to complete the campaign remains ongoing. Sally Wilkins, Amherst Land Trust chairwoman, reports gifts of $291,500 as of Dec. 14, a jump of over $6,000 for the week.

"We still have our work cut out for us," Wilkins said, "but people are giving personally significant sums of money. It’s been such a great community project. One person’s show of support inspires another’s."

Wilkins and Travis Warren, chairman of the Amherst Community Foundation, are encouraged by the number of people joining the funding effort. To date, over 225 people have donated to the organizations’ joint fundraising effort. The vast majority of donations are $100 or over, and the tally of donations over $1,000 has grown to over 25.

Park organizers are also encouraged by the groundswell of volunteer support in making the park a prize asset among town amenities. Joining Gordon Leedy on the construction committee are veteran builders and contractors Steve Desmarais, Jamie Ramsay and Jim Sickler. They will be working with Ellen Grudzien, chairwoman of the playground committee.

Joining Wilkins on the community-garden committee are John Cochran, of the Amherst Garden Center, Lora Swansinger, Tina Summers of the Amherst Garden Club, and Tyler Davis. Tom Mitchell, who has farmed the land for two decades, will be an adviser.

The park, with a fundraising goal of $350,000, will feature a playground, community garden and nature trail. It is to be sited on the south side of Amherst Village. The Amherst Land Trust has received all approvals for the park. The trust acquired land on Nov. 10.

The 3.9-acre park property is on Courthouse Road. It preserves existing farmland and wetland. Details and a color map are on the park website, joshuaspark.org.