FAIRFAX – It was 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside when members of the Fairfax community gathered on the corner of Main Street and Maple Street Saturday morning to drive the first nails of a new park.
Braving the heat, around a dozen Fairfax residents took part in the “community build day” organized by Fairfax officials to help build its new miniature park.
“I live down the street,” said Amanda Duling, a Maple Street resident and one of the first community members on the site that morning. “This is my neighborhood.”
By the end of the day, those residents had installed and planted several new gardening beds and built a picnic table, converting a longtime vacant lot into a gathering space in the heart of Fairfax’s village area.
The town began pushing for a “parklet” at the corner of Main Street and Maple Street under town manager Brad Docheff, who, when speaking previously with the Messenger, tied the park into a wider “Walkable Fairfax” project meant to bring residents outside and into the community.
“I’ve heard murmurs about this corner since I came here,” Docheff said. “We wanted a brighter spot when people enter the village.”
The lot in question, a town plot that’s sat vacant for years, sits at the corner of one of Fairfax’s busiest intersections, where Fletcher Road starts its drive toward the town of the same name and where Route 104 bends south toward Chittenden County and Lamoille County.
According to Docheff, the idea of a community build was important for what the town manager described as a “bottom-up approach” to the community parklet. “We really wanted buy-in and ownership from the community,” Docheff said.
That buy-in was obvious Saturday, when a workforce made up almost entirely of volunteers began building their park, in many cases with tools they brought themselves – including a lawn tractor courtesy of former Fairfax selectperson and state representative John Mitchell.
Materials used on the park were either donated or sold to the town at a reduced rate, according to the town’s recreation director Brian LaClair, and a surprise pizza delivery came courtesy of Stone’s Throw across the street at around noon Saturday.
According to town officials, there’s still plenty of work left for the parklet.
Already, the town’s planning on an information kiosk, a sign with directional arrows pointed at destinations all over Fairfax (and at Canada), and other additions. “It’ll evolve throughout the rest of the year,” LaClair said.
Still, even if it’s incomplete, residents seemed excited about their work Saturday and what it could mean for that small spot in the center of Fairfax and for the town as a whole.
“Just aesthetically, it’s a good idea,” Duling said. “Any space that has a purpose is better than a vacant lot.”
Dave McGown, a longtime Fairfax resident clad in a bright green Fairfax Recreation Department Volunteer shirt Saturday, stepped back from the parklet site for a moment to speak with the Messenger.
“After 35 years here, Fairfax seems to be coming together more than in the past,” McGown said as he looked over the tiny park taking shape. “It certainly looks like a renaissance.”