Maynard, MA, USA: Beacon-Villager newspaper column on local history, observations on nature and recreational activities, plus an occasional health-related article. Columns from 2009-11 collected into book "MAYNARD: History and Life Outdoors." Columns from 2012-14 collected into book "Hidden History of Maynard." - David A. Mark
encompasses greenspace on either side of the footbridge over the AssabetRiver, located at the east end of the
parking lot behind the Post Office. Maynard's smallest park, so small it is not
even listed on the town's website map of open spaces and trails, turns 23 years
old this month.
According to an article in the October 5, 1989 issue of the
Beacon, in the microfilm collection of the Maynard Public Library, the park was
dedicated in late September 1989. Close to 60 Tobin family members, friends and
local dignitaries attended. The park project cost $142,036 and was partially
funded by the Executive Office of Communities and Development Small Cities
Program, and the Department of Environmental Management.
Prior to the park's construction the area had been a
brownfield eyesore. Long after the trains had stopped running the deteriorating
trestle bridge and bordering land were overgrown, neglected, and had become a
hang-out for town drunks, derelicts and homeless. Men slept in corrugated
Tobin had been a long-time resident of Maynard. He was a
Board of Public Works member for over 30 years, and also active at times on the
town's Finance Committee, School Building Committee and the Board of Appeals. Tobin
was instrumental in starting the Boys & Girls Club of Assabet Valley. He
was so active in town that many people referred to him as "Mr.
Maynard." His death in 1986 was a catalyst for the town's government to
choose some means of remembering his contributions.
In addition to Tobin's involvement in town government, he
and his family ran the very successful Tobin Vending Service, which among other
clients, had a contract for vending machines for Digital Equipment Corporation.
This pocket-sized park sports a wood-decked footbridge
across the AssabetRiver, two picnic tables
- perfect for a weekday outdoor lunch - and ten benches. Some of the original
landscape plantings still grace
Low water under the footbridge, August 2010
the park, but around the edges wildness had set
in over the years.
By 2005 the upstart growth was so thick that it was barely
possible to glimpse the river. Maple saplings, poison ivy, Oriental bittersweet
vines and Japanese knotweed were rampant. Finally, volunteers stepped in to clear
saplings and undergrowth, and the town's Department of Public Works effected
As a result, this is one of the few places in town it is
possible to walk right down to the riverbank. Barefoot wading is not
recommended, however, as while literally hundreds of pounds of broken glass,
pottery shards and rusting metal have been removed, much remains.
The river brings many moods to the park. The flood of March
2010 brought water to within a foot of the underside of the footbridge, and a
flow rate of 2,500 cubic feet per second. This summer's low trickled by at 20
cfs - not enough to float a boat. Winter adds ice stalactites to the river's borders
whenever the water level is slowly falling while temperatures stay below
Adult Canada goose
Wildlife sightings include many birds, a few species of
fish, frogs and crayfish. During summer's low water a lone Great Blue Heron
often stalks the river in search of breakfast. Rarer sightings have included
snapping turtles, raccoons, skunks and the occasional garter snake. Flocks of
geese step out of the river to nibble on the grass. It's a nature oasis in the
center of town.
In the future the park will undergo another transformation,
as the plans for the Assabet River Rail Trail call for a new bridge and a wider
path. The soonest this might happen is 2016. For now, let's all give thanks to
the memory of John J. Tobin, and the tiny gem of a downtown park named in his