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Preserving the Open Characteristics of Residential Neighborhoods

By Wethersfield Historical Society on September 5, 2011 1:48 PM

From the 1950's through 1970's (although not every year) Mill Woods Park was the site of the town's Fourth of July fireworks display.  In 1952 some 15,000 persons attended the event, which began at 7:30 pm with a band concert by the First Regiment Band of the Connecticut State Guard while a detail of six policemen directed by Chief Thomas J. Sullivan stood watch.  The displays were ended in 1976 for cost reasons.
In July 1961 the "Report on Planning" a.k.a. "The Allen Report" was presented to the Park and Recreation Board.  Also that year Bill Pitkin was appointed Director of Recreation.
"Mill Woods Park is the principal town area devoted to open land uses and, with the Golf Club and the 1870 Reservoir, will preserve the open characteristics of the residential neighborhoods in the southern part of town.'
The report went on to say that Mill Woods Park "should be a town-wide park and playfield."  Among the recommended installations were: 3 softball diamonds; 2 baseball diamonds; 2 football-soccer fields; and 18 hole par three golf course; 2 parking areas; expanded picnic facilities; day camp, nature trails and council ring in woods; 2 bocce courts; a carousel; and a recreation building with various features.  The top immediate priorities were a baseball diamond, large parking area and to "construct a dam and excavate the pond."
The opening of four new tennis courts in August was delayed by vandalism.  The protective coating had been applied to the surface and was drying and the lines had been painted.  The despoilers climbed over the locked 10 foot high chain link fence and stole the custom made net fittings which then had to be special ordered from a company in Kokomo, Indiana.
During the next month vandals also damaged six nursery swings, masonry in one of the fireplaces, and one of the water fountains causing a "towering squirt" that attracted a relatively large audience from the surrounding neighborhood.
In June eight projects from the Allen Report were slated for implementation at Mill Woods at a total cost of $606,000 - a recreation center multi-use areas; preschool area; an expanded and improved picnic area; a civil defense building; 9 holes of the par three golf course; and 2 bocce courts.  The second 9 holes of the golf course were scheduled a part a later project grouping.  

Evidently implementation of the projects did not go smoothly. Public demand for building an actual swimming pool at Mill Woods apparently continued in spite of the plan, and in March of 1965, based upon responses to a survey and a defeated town referendum Director Bill Pitkin announced the "pool is dead" and that the golf course was now a "long term" possibility.  In August it was decided to build a new swim facility at Greenfield School.

The murkiness issues however continued at the Mill Woods pool, which was closed in May of 1966 due to the "turbid condition of the water".  A vacuum filter employing diatomaceous earth was installed by Connecticut Swimming Pool Company at a cost of $29,000 and Edwin Balf Company paved a portion of the swimming pool bottom (six feet out on land to twenty-four feet beyond the water line) with three-part surfacing using bituminous materials the top layer of which was a soft white bitumen.

In August of 1969 Director Pitkin agreed to provide a lighted area within which town teenagers could hang out at night - unsupervised.  The teens agreed to a code of behavior to which they adhered and other than some generalized concerns expressed by older residents visiting the park at night, there were apparently no untoward incidents.  The informal program continued for several years.

In 1972 amesite was installed on about one-third of the lower pond bottom - covering most of the swim area.  In 2000 the town placed a special concrete mixture over the amesite.
Director Bill Pitkin passed away in March 1989 and was succeeded by Kathy Bagley in November of that year.  The town's Community Center is named in his honor.

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