Friends of Coggshall
As anyone who reads this blog even occasionally knows, I'm a huge fan of Coggshall Park. I've spent countless hours hiking the trails, enjoying the free summer concerts, meeting others out walking their dogs, picnicking by the gazebo, and skating on Mirror Lake. It never ceases to amaze me that only a short walk from my house in a small city, I have available hundreds of acres for a peaceful retreat.
Needless to say, I was devastated to learn on Tuesday morning that Coggshall's stone house had burned down. Bob O'Connell, president of the Friends of Coggshall, emailed those of us who are active in the organization with the bad news; it wasn't until he subsequently forwarded photos of the burnt structure that it even seemed real. Everyone seemed to have a favorite story to tell, be it a childhood memory of warming up in front of the fire after a game of hockey on the lake or a more recent recollection of a wedding reception they had attended there.
It was a beautiful lodge, and it will be rebuilt. Unfortunately, it will be impossible to replicate the stonework and charm of the original structure, built in 1917. And it will no doubt take another century for the ivy to again cover the exterior walls.
Over the years, the Friends of Coggshall group has played an important role in helping to maintain the park. Recent projects with which they've been involved include ongoing landscaping efforts, installation of a new fountain, obtaining swans for the lake, annual sponsorship of the summer concert series, and purchasing a special fire response vehicle with off-road capabilities to allow the fire department to respond to forest fires in Coggshall or anywhere else in the city. One member even singlehandedly provided installation of a security system and webcam (no easy feat to run wiring through stone masonry)...if not for Unitil's failure to restore power to the park in a timely manner following the mid-December ice storm, the fire that claimed the stone house may have been prevented or at least detected at an early enough stage to limit the amount of damage.
The Friends of Coggshall resources are obviously going to be strained as the organization works to support efforts to rebuild the stone house and to restore its contents and surrounding environment. Now is a great time for people to consider becoming a part of the group, and I'm including a membership application here that can be printed out and mailed to the address on the form (just click on the image for the full-sized version). Personally, I was shocked when I learned that membership starts at only $10 - I've certainly gotten more than $10 worth of enjoyment out of all the time I've spent at the park, and I know many others feel the same way! Another way to support the group is to consider buying a sun catcher featuring a photo image of one of seven Coggshall scenes, available at The Most Office, Vincent's Florist, Mill No. 3 Farmstand, Fitchburg Federal Credit Union, and the mayor's office.
Coggshall Park is something that really sets Fitchburg apart from other communities, and I hope that many of you will consider helping to protect it. Thanks for reading!
[04/28/10 UPDATE: The Friends of Coggshall finally have a website, www.coggshallpark.org. Please consider checking it out for more information about the organization.)