WELLSVILLE - Nestled between two Main Street buildings, a pocket park envisioned by two local residents will offer visitors a place to imagine, to dream, to hope and to make their desires known.
While visiting New Orleans after the devastating floods, residents Connie Carmichael and Sharon Buswell saw an interactive art display and "thought that would be so great here."
They began walking around Wellsville, searching for the perfect spot for chalkboards which would be the highlight of the display. The boards would be imprinted with the statement, "Before I die, I want to," leaving a blank to fill in with chalk.
Morning Journal/Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert
Standing on the stage at the new pocket park in Wellsville are the group instrumental in its construction (from left): Sharon Buswell, Jack Cataldo, Beverly Hentzell, Lonnie Hentzell, Connie Carmichael, Julie DuMoulin and Ron DuMoulin. In front is Angel Hentzell, who finds the park a great place to visit.
Then, about a year ago, the Revitalization Committee, of which Carmichael is a member, approached Village Council for permission to put the chalkboards on a parcel of village-owned land tucked next to Daniels Plumbing.
Council approved the project, and work began in earnest this past July 4, with Carmichael and Buswell joined by a handful of volunteers: Ron and Julie DuMoulin, Jack Cataldo, Lonnie and Beverly Hentzell.
Installing the chalkboards was all that Carmichael needed to convince her of the pocket park's relevance.
"The day after we put the boards up there were such wonderful things put on them," she said with obvious emotion in her voice.
That day, they read: Before I die, I want to
"Make things right with my wife."
"See my grandkids grow up."
"Make amends with my father."
"See no drugs in Wellsville."
"That's all I needed to see," Carmichael said.
Although some concern had been voiced about graffiti being written on the boards, only one profane word has had to be removed, and the rain pretty much takes care of keeping the boards clean for new thoughts, while Carmichael makes sure chalk supplies are replenished.
Although "pocket park" is what it is being called, the small oasis in the middle of Main Street hasn't really been officially named at this point, with ideas still being bandied about.
There is still work to be done, with an electric pole just set this past week, thanks to the village, which supplied the pole, employees and equipment to install it. The village will also pay the cost of the monthly electric bill.
Until the electric pole undergoes its state inspection and approval, a new sidewalk and light for the center of the park will not be installed, after which plans call for relocating a little boy statue from the floodwall to the park.
The group recently completed a small stage with a roof that Ron DuMoulin said can be used for a variety of things.
"Hopefully, people will have little meetings here, or someone will pick up a guitar. Next year's big reunion is in town, and we hope someone will use it for that," DuMoulin said.
Buswell said it may also be used for the annual Christmas for the Animals event and a Halloween party.
A comfortable swing donated by Gary Wilson holds a place of prominence in the park, set where visitors can contemplate passersby, the chalkboard sentiments or just their own thoughts.
"It's not going to be a swing, but an anti-gravity machine," Carmichael smiled.
A lending library featuring children's books will be featured in memory of John Soldano, whose family donated toward the project in his honor. The schoolhouse-shaped container was donated by Janet Birch Realty, while Campbell Signs is donating the sign for the library, which will have donated books.
Children will be able to take books and leave books free of charge.
A whimsical flower bed made of an actual bed frame culled from a yard sale graces one corner of the park, and other flowers will be planted around its perimeter.
A water supply has been provided for the park to keep the flowers watered, Buswell pointed out.
As with other mural projects undertaken by the Revitalization Committee, the touches of artist Gina Hampson can be seen on the stage, where the door and a window have been painted with small murals.
DuMoulin said some old extension ladders were purchased to make an archway over the sidewalk when it is completed.
The owner of the adjacent building, Skip Daniels, has given permission for a mural to be painted on its wall, and Carmichael said that is a possibility, sometime in the future.
It is this type of generosity that has made the park possible, group members said, noting that First Energy's Sammis Plant, where DuMoulin works, has donated materials and that Eagles Aerie No. 772 has been a major contributor.
"We really appreciate those who donated everything for the park," DuMoulin said.
"It's really been a team effort. Everybody did what they were good at," Cataldo added, saying even a couple kids from town helped him dig out the ground for the sidewalk.
They estimate the park may be completed by October, although visitors are welcome to stop even now to post a though on the boards, pick a few chords on the stage, defy gravity on the anti-gravity machine or just to dream.
"We hope a lot of really cool things go on here. This is something kind of swell for Wellsville," Buswell smiled.