Francis William Bird Park

When it's sunny, I've been taking daily walks to Bird Park. It's a 5-minute walk from Lin's house to get to the closest entrance … one of eight … which leads to 89 acres of landscaped, waterscaped, understated wonder. If you like parks, this one is a most pleasant surprise in the middle of East Walpole, Massachusetts. It's a good place to think and walk and contemplate things. That's what a park should be, I reckon.

francis william bird park

It's a well-used park. Old folks and young folks sit on park benches and read and let the sun shine on their faces. Big expanses of well-maintained lawns invite owners to play ball and frisbee with their dogs. There are big fenced playground areas and “tot lots” to encourage younger children to ride their trikes or swing or see-saw or play in a sandbox while their parents sit comfortably and read or just enjoy the peace of the place.

There are streams with old granite bridges traversing them and several duck ponds. Miles of bicycle paths and walks meander through groves of trees and over gently sloping forested hills.

view

Francis William Bird Park was created and endowed in 1925 by local industrialist Charles Sumner Bird, Sr. and his wife Anna in memory of their eldest son, Francis William Bird who had died seven years earlier. The Bird Corporation was initially involved in fine paper manufacturing during the turn of the 18th century, which led to producing waterproof tar paper, then eventually to asphalt shingles. Charles Sumner Bird wasn't your “usual” industrialist of the time who were prone to exploiting their employees with unsafe working conditions and long hours. Rather he was a pioneer in the area of employee relations. Between 1900 and 1925, Bird became one of the first American companies to offer an eight-hour workday (as opposed to the standard twelve-hour day of that time), an employee suggestion box, an employee credit union, paid employee vacations, and a benefit association to provide income for sick or disabled employees.

 

charles sumner bird

 

According to Wiki, landscape architect and town planner, John Nolen, a protégé of Frederick Law Olmsted, designed the park. Nolen believed that parks were critical to the health of urban residents and should be designed to provide a place of respite and relaxation in nature. In his original design plan, Nolen wrote that this park should be

"... a sequestered breathing place in the heart of East Walpole ... a combination of broad, sun-swept meadow lands, speckled with shadowed glades, higher tree-screened knolls for the lover of shade, the whole set to the music of a babbling stream."

Nolen did well. Bird Park is a lovely “breathing place”.

For most of its history, the park was owned and maintained by the Francis William Bird Park Trust. By the last decades of the 20th century, parts of the park suffered badly from neglect and vandalism. The Trustees of Reservations gained possession of the property in 2002 and it has made all of the difference.

Wildflowers provide color to the park. Bluettes and buttercups, Queen Anne's lace and lily of the valley, yellow wild poppies and purple speedwell are all a-bloom. And lest you get carried away with the wildflowers, there was also a good crop of poison ivy midst the beautiful blooms.

wildflowers

My favorite parts of the park are the duck ponds which currently have been taken over by Canada geese and their goslings.

goslings

I could watch them for hours. There were more than a dozen goslings with adults all around them for protection. Far be it for me to encroach on their territory … geese can be pretty vicious when you get near their young, like any reasonable parent. I watched as they went for a swim, then came ashore for a few nibbles and then back for a swim and some flying lessons. They've got the whole summer to learn the tricks of the goose trade and then they'll be on their own. Tough life if you're a goose.

goslings and mom