New Veterans Park dedication at 9 a.m.

New Veterans Park dedication at 9 a.m.

On Tuesday, volunteers continued to work on finishing touches to the new Veterans Park under construction on Davison Avenue, across from the former site of the French Worsted mill. Here, sod was being off-loaded and was expected to be rolled out on Wednesday, according to Richard Lepine, father of the two Scouts Ð Chris and Jennifer Lepine Ð who spearheaded the work with the City of Woonsocket. The dedication of the new park is set for Veterans Day, Tuesday, Nov. 11, at 9 a.m.

WOONSOCKET - For the past three months, dozens of volunteers have been hard at work on a half acre lot on Davison Avenue, transforming what was once a barren piece of land into a suitable monument to those who have served the country, and a place for area veterans to gather and reflect.

This week, it will all come to fruition with the dedication of the new Woonsocket Veterans Park.

The dedication will take place, appropriately, on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, rain or shine, with a ceremony starting at 9 a.m. A one-hour long program will include students from Mount Saint Charles Academy playing patriotic songs including "Taps" and the national anthem, along with several speakers, many of whom were involved with construction.

The project to build the park - a new permanent home for the city's veteran ceremonies and observances - was organized and run by twin brother and sister Christopher and Jennifer Lepine as a means to earn their respective Eagle Scout badge and Girl Scout Gold Award.

"My brother and I were both looking for ideas and it just seemed like an amazing opportunity," said Jennifer. "Our grandfather was in the service, so it kind of hit home for us. Plus, we really wanted to impact the community."

The park is adjacent to the entrance of the Blackstone River Bikeway and the Rivers Edge Sports Complex and includes an extensive paved brick walkway, along with benches, flagpoles, signs, plaques and markers.

Completing the job was a city-wide effort, and the impressive results happened exclusively through the sweat of volunteers, from young kids and friends of the Lepines, to the older veterans who hope to enjoy the facility. Crews of helpers have shown up on weekends since July, including the likes of City Councilors Christopher Beauchamp and Garrett Mancieri, State Reps. Michael Morin and Stephen Casey, an entire crew of Woonsocket firefighters and even the mayor herself.

Boyle & Fogarty Construction of Smithfield removed asphalt and prepared the lot for landscaping and construction while Beauchamp's employer, Narragansett Improvement, cleared the property.

"It was amazing how it all came together," said Lepine.

Although the focus of the work for the twins was organizational - Christopher planned construction while Jennifer worked on the marketing - the 17-year-olds were also part of the physical labor, which was no small task. For months, the teens' weekends have been spent digging up dirt and planting shrubs - 160 new ones surround the park - along with raking mulch, spreading loam, making cement, raising flagpoles and getting benches assembled.

With just two weekends remaining to complete the project, Mother Nature threw the crew a curve ball as morning snow and 50 mph winds throughout the day greeted volunteers last Sunday.

"I was surprised by how sore I was afterwards," Lepine said.

Even the marketing, she said, was a lot to take on. Lepine started by building a website for the project over the summer, but also created flyers, manned a booth at Autumnfest, spoke to the City Council, and gave a presentation to the Rotary Club.

"It's been a giant work in progress," Lepine said adding "It looks so beautiful I love it," of the final product.

The project was sponsored by the United Veterans Council of Woonsocket, and had the declared support of the city itself. It was started with a $10,000 legislative grant obtained with help from the local delegation.

"This park is dedicated to the men and women of our community who served our country in times of peace and war, and especially to those who gave their lives in that service," the website explains.

It will also be the site of planned future monuments and additional plaques and markers will educate visitors about the many veterans monuments located throughout the city, honoring the contributions the city has made to the nation's wars and conflicts.

Immediately following the dedication, the Museum of Work & Culture will hold its annual Veterans Day event, and will honor the sacrifices of past and present veterans by opening doors free of charge to all veterans and their families, and to everyone who will bring a new unopened package of socks, T-shirts or underwear to be donated to the United Veterans Council.

The museum program will include a performance by musician and historian Rick Spencer who will present his repertoire of World War I songs. Refreshments will be served.

City Veteran Advisor, Ernie Boisvert, will also be on hand and available to assist veterans who want to apply for VA benefits and answer any questions about eligibility.