~ This article originally appeared in The Bedford Guide 2022
One of Bedford’s gems, Springs Brook Park, turned 50 in 2021. The anniversary was a little quieter than it might have been due to the pandemic. Springs Brook Park has taught hundreds if not thousands of kids to swim and has provided a safe summer destination for many. Not only did it provide a cool place to hang out in the summer it also gave countless kids their very first job.
The story of how Springs Brook Park came into existence is a bit of a “Bedford being Bedford” story in its own right. I did some digging with The Bedford Historical Society and found a story about how it all came to be.
The year was 1968 and the Veterans Hospital decided it had more land than it needed. At the same time, Bedford was growing and needed more recreation space. Both the State and the Federal governments were willing to contribute funding to Bedford to help with recreational needs. The VA sold the tract of land which is now Springs Brook Park for $5,725 dollars.
Having acquired the land, the town kicked into high gear to make the park a reality. The town formed the VA Surplus Land Advisory Committee—it facilitated the purchase and solicited the townspeople for ideas on what type of recreational project they wanted. Volunteers came to the aid of the project. First, the Rotary Club cleared an acre of the woods and donated a picnic table. The Bedford DPW built a road into the new park; they also cleared a five-acre section that was covered in stumps and boulders to make room for a parking lot. After that, the committee started dredging a pond on the property. The pond was spring fed and also was the catch basin from the adjoining hospital. One of the original ideas was to stock it with fish, to make that happen it was dredged to 16 feet in the middle. The local Boy Scout troop pitched in by marking the trail that led to Page School and the adjoining 65 acres.
The following year, in the 1969 Town Report, the advisory committee commented: “The area has been used a great deal by the townspeople for picnics, horseback riding, walking, ball playing, etc.” The dredging continued to make a full acre in size. The Boy Scouts continued to clear more land and used it for a campout.
By 1970 the pond was fully excavated and was lined with crushed rock. A sandy beach and bath house were also added that year. The new bathhouse was a real community effort with Bedford residents doing a lot of the work as volunteers, saving the town thousands of dollars.
Over the years many incremental upgrades have taken place at the park. A major renovation took place in 2015/2016. The pond was leveled and regraded resulting in a slightly smaller area and not as deep as it had been. Also, that year was when the shade structures, spray park, two playgrounds, slide (since removed), and concrete piers were added. The pond is chlorinated and filtered to meet health standards and part of the renovation was to add a structure to hold all of the filtration and chlorination equipment that was previously kept in the bathhouse. Most of the renovation was funded with CPA funds (Community Preservation Act) as well as volunteer labor provided by Shawsheen Tech staff and students (the parts that were not eligible for CPA funds).
I reached out to Amy Hamilton, the Bedford Recreation director about Springs Brook Park. She mentioned, “One of the park’s most important successes has been the number of children who have learned to swim there over the years. This year, more than 600 students took lessons at SBP through the Summer Adventures program.” She continued with an interesting side story. “Another interesting tidbit: The Kennedy family became SBP members when it opened. One of their grown children, Dave, worked as a Crew and then Lifeguard at the Park for many years. When he moved on, a lifeguard chair was named after him (Dave Chair). Since leaving the state of MA (residing in PA now), he has made a visit to the park every year for a swim, not missing a year that the park was open. This summer, Dave was not able to visit, but because of all things virtual, we gave him a virtual visit via Facetime in order to avoid breaking the streak. To make this complete, I will be sending Dave a sample of sand from the 2021 beach (the sample is still here in my office waiting to be mailed).
One of Bedford’s gems: Spring Brook Park