WELLSVILLE - The conditions were none too hospitable on a damp, cold Sunday afternoon, but members of the Wellsville Revitalization Committee were eager to discuss plans for an upcoming project they say will be off the ground when more friendly weather arrives in the spring.
The so-called "Pocket Park" planned for an empty lot on Main Street between Fourth and Fifth streets was given the green light by village council last year. The idea became a subject of discussion in Wellsville last summer after WRC members Sharon Buswell, Connie Carmichael and Jack Cataldo presented the idea at a village council meeting.
With permission granted, the burden of getting the project underway shifts to the WRC, whose members are gearing up for the effort. "It took awhile, but it looks like we can start this spring," Buswell said.
Despite the cold and damp dreariness on display Sunday afternoon, the people behind the effort to build a public art park on Main Street in Wellsville came out to share their ideas for the project. At the future park site are (from left) Jack Cataldo, Ron Dumoulin, Sharon Buswell and Julie Dumoulin. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
The idea of the park was almost incidental, according to Buswell. First came the idea of wanting to create a public art installation somewhere in the village, and finding a place to put it. When the site on Main Street was marked as a possibility, the idea of creating a small park around it was born. "That was like an afterthought," Buswell admitted.
The artwork, called "Before I Die," is a community art installation created by artist Candy Chang in New Orleans in 2011. It consists of large black boards stenciled with the phrase, "Before I die, I want to ----" in columns across it. With pieces of chalk provided at the site, visitors can write what they hope to accomplish before they die in the blank spaces.
Chang has a starter kit available for anyone who wishes to recreate the New Orleans original in their own city. Buswell mentioned the universal appeal of the work, of which there are versions across the United States and around the world. "It's all over the country, and now it's going to be in Wellsville," she said.
In addition to the art piece, the park will also feature benches and pathways, flowers, bushes and other plantings. There will be lighting for security at night and a rain barrel to collect rainwater for people to water the on-site flowerbeds. Buswell says it will be "a people-friendly park that enhances the likability of the town."
Another novel feature planned is a small structure at the back of the lot that would serve as a shelter and have a stage to host small concerts and other public events. "We were talking about building a fake storefront with the roof and a porch, and make it old-time-looking," said Ron Dumoulin, who has volunteered for the project alongside his wife, Julie Dumoulin.
Dumoulin also shared an idea for a small structure, possibly a replica mailbox or a small house, to hold a collection of books free for children to read when they visit the park, or to take home with them and return. They could also drop off books they are done with or simply share books they like with other visitors. "It's still in the planning stages," Cataldo said.
Funding for the park had been another hurdle facing the WRC, but Cataldo has been able to secure a $2,000 grant from the Fraternal Order Of Eagles Aerie No. 772 in Wellsville toward the purchase of materials necessary to complete the work. "It would have been impossible without their help," Buswell said.
As with other recent projects to beautify the village, all labor will be volunteer, Cataldo says. He and Buswell praised the Dumoulins for offering their prize-winning landscaping experience to the project and look forward to pitching in with them.
"I am a helper bee. Whatever they say to do, I do," Buswell laughed.
Work is set to begin as soon as more favorable weather descends upon the village, and will be underway by summer, according to Buswell. "When it gets nice, we'll be out here," she said. Those who wish to volunteer their time or experience to the park project are asked to call WRC member Connie Carmichael at 330-532-9064.