Millers River Park – behind the Athol Public Library
The original library was built in 1918 with funds from Andrew Carnegie on land donated by Leroy Starrett. An addition was built in 1965.
In 2003 the Board of Library Trustees purchased the adjacent Bachelder lot once known as the Wallet Shop and the White Paper Box Company for parking and future library expansion.
In 2011 the Library Trustees entered into negotiations to purchase the former Engel Plumbing business and a 2 story house at 182 Marble Street. The library trust funds purchased the properties and they were held and insured by the Friends of the Athol Library.
L.S. Starrett Company president Douglas A. Starrett was solicited for two parcels of land that separated the library lot and the newly acquired lots. In keeping with the legacy of his grandfather, Doug and the Starrett Company graciously donated them to the project.
The Athol Public Library was in the design development stage for a historic renovation and expansion when the Trustee and Construction Committee Chair Dr. Carol Ambrozy researched a PARC grant offered by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Using the library landscaping funds as the town’s match, a PARC grant was awarded to construct this lovely Millers River Park and to develop an intra-community trails system connecting the downtown parks and walking areas.
A 2011 MBLC Grant for $4,500,000 was awarded when the Town voted to fund the remaining $4,000,000 to renovate the original Carnegie portion and expand the library from 8,000 to 20,000 square feet.
At the conclusion of the library building and park project, the library was awarded LEED Platinum status, the first historic library in the country to reach this designation.
Many of the features in the park contributed to this distinctive award. The plants are all native to our area thus requiring less water and care. The rain garden and detention pond provide managed care of storm water by filtering it before it enters the Millers River. Green space was reclaimed. The granite blocks forming the amphitheater originally were the South Main Street Bridge until it was dismantled and rebuilt. They were saved and now serve as seating for park events.
The physical layout of this fully handicapped accessible park has many unique and interesting features which were named for children’s books. The main entrance “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” features a butterfly garden which showcases two large rocks that were unearthed during excavation and kept as a play feature. The plaza area there is in the shape of a butterfly and is ringed by Russian sage, daylilies and boxwoods. Blueberry bushes at “The Three Sisters Garden” lead you to garden boxes which were planted and are being maintained by families.
Coming up a serene walkway of pervious pavers along the Millers River, you will notice to your left the detention pond. This area “The Water Cycle” contains summer sweet, black tupelo, greenwave yews, dogwood and witch hazel together with a wildflower and grass mix which are all designed to assist with managing stormwater. The raingarden which is over closer to the library collects rainwater from the roof of the library through drainage pipes in the pillars and feeds the water into the detention pond. All this water is filtered and cleaned as it passes through the system before it enters the Millers River.
At the top of the walkway, the pavers create a larger plaza and an amphitheater. “Your Daily Om” can be used for picnicking and quiet contemplation. The library has arts and craft programs as well science and nature events. Here is a backpack that you can check out with your children (list items). An evening program demonstrating our new telescope was held here and every Friday Valuing our Children has a story book walk such as the one you see here. The YMCA across the street can hold yoga or exercise classes. Musical programs are being planned as well. The possibilities are endless.
The park also provides a mini oasis in the downtown area along the river. Each day we see people enjoying their lunch on the picnic tables or granite stones which is why this area is named from the storybook “Ants at the Picnic”. The adjacent area called “Out of the Apple Orchard” is because of the Donald Wyman Crab apples planted there. They provide a wonderfully scented area to stroll through in springtime.
With the reopening of the newly renovated library and the beautifully landscaped park, there is a tremendous opportunity for the community to enjoy recreational pursuits and educational programs here, both inside and outside the building.