Taking hope from past: Coggshall Park

By Robert Gosselin

Coggshall Park is a place where hope stays alive.

This week I decided to go for a walk in the park. Usually I take in a movie, or try to find some live music, but to be honest I needed something cheap to do. My funds were very low, and I wanted to get away from the constant barrage of life’s daily annoyances. I assumed visiting the park would be a simple afternoon in the sun. I could not have been more wrong.

As a man who appreciates culture I have learned that a work of art is often not just a painting, play, or symphony. It can be something much larger, and on Thursday I had the pleasure to experience one of these significant works of art when I visited Coggshall Park in Fitchburg. It is a beautiful place, and on that amazing fall day I was grateful for all the artists who worked so hard to make it such an enjoyable spot. I also learned it is a park with a history, and while it would be easy to just take Coggshall Park at face value, it deserves a closer look than that.

In the center of the park is a pond surrounded by a path. As I walked this path I came upon a metal plaque that was affixed to a large stone. It did not say much, just “BUILT BY WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION 1935-1936.”

The people who helped build this great park were part of the WPA, a jobs program that was created by the government during the darkest days of the Great Depression. Those workers must have been grateful for this job at a time when so many other people were out of work.
However, that plaque represents much more than that. That simple piece of metal is also an affirmation by the people of that time that they had hope for a better future, and if they worked hard and stuck together, they could get through their tough times. In their combined optimism they wanted to create a place that could truly be enjoyed in the future, and they succeeded magnificently.

The sun went down too soon, and as the day ended I thought about how we as a society are dealing with today’s tough financial times. Some say they can be compared to the Great Depression. Perhaps they can, but as a society can we find the courage to create our own landscapes of hope? Is there a stone out there, somewhere, waiting for our plaque?

I hope so, but until that day comes I will continue to visit this amazing park, and you should as well.

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