TOM WARD – Finally, we will re-think Diamond Hill Park

TOM WARD – Finally, we will re-think Diamond Hill Park

Last Thursday, I was in Pawtucket celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Pawtucket Rotary Club. It was a landmark event for a landmark group who has been providing “Service Above Self” to the community for a century. Well done!

Unfortunately, my being at Slater Mill with fellow Rotarians kept me from Cumberland’s night of public input on plans for a comprehensive, multi-year upgrade to Diamond Hill Park. As Mayor Jeff Mutter noted, this is going to take a long time, and will need consistent support from today’s and future leaders as work proceeds. But it begins with a plan. Had I been able to attend, my first question would simply have been: Where would you put a building if you had a “do-over?” Yes, it would be costly to put the wrecking ball to the “ski lodge,” but for Pete’s sake, it is three-quarters a windowless, cinder block box, and nobody has skied at the park for the last half century. It seems a shame to me that the lodge at its current site – even a renovated one – remains the focal point. Can we dream bigger and start over?

Also, a splash pad, I think, would be a big draw. Sadly, it would be a bigger draw at the more centrally located Monastery, in the huge expanse of grass behind the library. But that ship has sailed. In my view, the town made a mistake taking that land fully out of play, but there is no point re-litigating it. A splash pad would be wonderful at Diamond Hill, but not centrally located.

The pond at the stage also remains an intractable problem. Entertainers hate it, but tadpoles, dragonflies, and the DEM are in charge. Yes, a skating area would be nice, but they’re overrated. As soon as a snowstorm hits, the party is over, unless the town plans to plow the surface. And speaking of snowstorms, can we embrace gravity and create a safe space for sledding? I imagine that won’t be too difficult. If we could figure out weekend sledding, skating, and a supervised bonfire, we’d have a really good thing going!And of course, turf fields. Yes, they are costly, but Cumberland parents have been complaining about a shortage of fields for all the 32 years I’ve lived here, and lacrosse has changed the narrative. As a taxpayer, count me in, even though my kids long ago played their final games.

It’s been a long slog with this park. This newspaper was brand new two decades ago when the state “turned over” Diamond Hill “State” Park to Mayor Frank Gaschen and the town. Woonsocket made improvements to their former state park, and Cumberland can, too. I applaud the effort, and look forward to progress.

A Big Weekend!

And speaking of Woonsocket’s former state park, World War II Memorial Park, this weekend it hosts the city’s biggest party, Autumnfest. The now 41-year-old festival, conceived by the Blizzard of ‘78, takes place Saturday through Monday there.

And, of course, in Scituate, we’ll get to enjoy the Scituate Art Festival the same days. Here’s hoping the late-week rainstorm passes quickly.

Autumnfest “conceived by the Blizzard of ‘78,” you wonder? Yes, my Mount St. Charles ‘71 pal, former Lt. Gov. Roger Begin, was just a young state rep when he noted how much people enjoyed the week following the blizzard, as snowbound neighbors met and helped each other for days. Why not keep the fun going, he thought? And so it has continued, for 41 years!

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze