Stevens Park: Emerald in the City
by Ken Signorello & Irene Wrenner
September 20, 2021
Stevens Park is a lush 8.2-acre park in the heart of Essex Junction.
It’s bordered by Park Street, South Street, Orchard Terrace and Iroquois Avenue, and those who live nearby can attest to both its beauty and its neglect.
Other Village parks get more attention. Maple Street Park has amenities, signage, parking and activity year-round. A new Pocket Park at Five Corners is in the works after the Village Trustees invested more than $60,000 to purchase and beautify the asphalt parcel fronting the Firebird Café. Urban planners continue to wrestle with how to green-up this soil-contaminated site.
Just a few blocks away sits a wooded park donated to the Village by Bertha Stevens, widow of former developer Guy Stevens, back in 1973. Vintage playground equipment haunts this peaceful park, which is bisected by two trails connecting its formal South Street entrance to its unmarked entrance in the parking lot behind the Essex Westford School District administration building at 51 Park Street.
Long-time Village resident and frequent Stevens Park visitor Andy Champagne bemoaned its neglect to elected officials during a public meeting last month. Then, on September 3rd he shared his passion for the park and his dismay at its decline with the Essex Retorter in this video.
During our guided tour, Champagne pointed out erosion, overgrown plants, downed trees, and stumps that haven’t been removed. He believes a small investment of money and effort in the park would improve its appearance and provide welcome respite to Village residents amidst the increasingly busy downtown.
Village Trustee George Tyler mentioned the park at the mid-September Trustee Meeting. He said he would advocate for spending some money to improve Stevens Park when the FY23 budget is discussed.
Tyler said he would like to see a task force convened and funded to determine how to make it a much nicer and more inviting amenity. He suggested that the task force:
1) Improve and maintain the trails;
2) Clean up any brush/detritus particularly around the periphery;
3) Survey neighbors to find out how they use the park and what changes they would like to see;
4) Improve safety; and
5) Explore innovations found in other small urban forest parks.