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Betsy’s Corner: A walk in the woods

She grew up in our Longmeadow house in the 1970s and 1980s. I invited her to come back for a visit to her childhood home. She brought with her unique memories that proved to be priceless. She told us what Bliss Woods was like when she walked to school through this slice of nature in the 1970s. Daily walks in every kind of weather on the trails past lady slippers, trillium, and much more green ground cover… now littered with broken limbs. The group called, Longmeadow Citizens to Save Our Parks, (LCSOP) is working to improve and restore both Laurel and Bliss Parks. This includes removing invasive plants, taking out poison ivy and knotweed plants and adding native greenery that used to grow there. Stories from the past are so helpful!

The woods had changed dramatically over the decades. There was an entrance from Oxford Road that turned left towards Oakwood Road and came out near the dirt parking lot. There were daily walking trips to Williams Middle School, back and forth. There was much more groundcover because the tree canopy was less dense. Now broken limbs and branches are scattered on the ground. All the newer trails heading west and south were not there. Over the years, residents and fellow walkers have created many trails bisecting the area every which way. We discussed the new paved paths that surround the ball fields for strollers, wheelchairs, bikers and walkers. In the future, we foresee beautification of walkways and sustainable gardens full of flowers and shrubs.

Soon the entire expanse of both Laurel and Bliss Parks will be legally “saved” under article 97 for posterity. One parcel has yet to be documented with the Registry of Deeds at the courthouse in Springfield. We are anxiously awaiting action by our Select Board to make this final part official. We are wondering why this process is so painfully slow. It is up to us to suggest improvements and enhancements to this treasured parkland. There are a total of 83 acres made up of over eight different tracks of land. You don’t have to be a school student or dog walker to explore the trails that twist and turn behind the Bliss Park pool area and baseball field. Cooley Brook has experienced erosion attributed to storm drain runoff. Conduit from adjoining neighborhoods carries gray water into the once pristine waters of Cooley Brook. Remember, this was once part of the town’s water supply. Unfortunately, there is also evidence of aging sewage lines on the brook’s bed. Many trees have fallen clogging the areas that are dingles. Trails and low-lying areas need to be cleaned out as silt has piled up over the years. We have started the process this summer as dead and damaged trees were pruned and removed. Eventually, Laurel Pond will be dredged, but we do not have a grant or state funding to take care of this expensive necessity. It has been over 25 years since it was worked on.

So far, town meeting attendees have approved four grants to preserve our parks. In the coming months we will hold some small meetings with groups to brainstorm ideas to share with the Conway School who will create an environmentally sound master plan. Employees of the town, and later, a group of residents, will exchange their unique perspectives and make a list of priorities to tackle. Be on the lookout for further information in early 2020 regarding the Bliss and Laurel Park Master Landscape Design Plan. Your input is valuable since residents of all ages and visitors from adjoining communities use the parks year-round. Thanks in advance for appreciating this wonderful parcel of open space that was “saved” in 1934 when the parks were created and “saved” again recently from any further development.