Preserve the Park at Sunapee Harbor

Beautification Oversight Comm. proposed re-design for green at Sunapee Harbor


The small lakeside park across from the gazebo at Sunapee Harbor is the subject of debate again. The Sunapee Beautification Committee has a new plan for the green, which many do not embrace. (See drawing.)

The small lakeside park should stay open and green. It’s beautiful, as is.

This does not diminish appreciation of the volunteer Sunapee Gardeners. The group tends to plantings in the harbor and around town and brings people together to contribute and connect. Members are diligent, talented and generous.

Beautification, however, is different for everyone. One thing all should agree upon is the need for an accountable, public process when it comes to beautification projects that alter and impact a town green. A well-vetted plan is essential.

Public parks deserve public conversation–open meetings that invite information sharing, in-put and collaborative long-term planning. The Select Board, of course, is ultimately responsible for the park’s management and oversight.

Some recent history…
Two years ago, the Beautification Committee proposed big changes to the little park, but withdrew the plan when folks questioned the process and challenged the design. It included a large sea monster, peek-a-boo wall, other ornamentation and shoreline lighting. Many said it was ill suited to the space and place and would dramatically alter the park.

This year, at the July 14 Board of Selectmen meeting, the committee revealed a new plan for the green: install a 20-foot wide spiral maze and sundial, a winding stone path, granite benches and such adornments as a granite chicken, a granite mushroom and “pebble-chimes.” A new 1390 sq. ft. garden, personalized granite benches, a weeping tree and roadside steps were installed earlier this summer.

So, what’s wrong with all this beautification? It’s privately funded, the committee says.

Honoring tradition…
With its natural beauty, this little lakeside park is simply priceless. Many treasure it and want to preserve it. Open green space is a cherished public asset around Lake Sunapee.

For over a half-century, this small green is where families have come to casually picnic and play without interference and worry.

You can bring a blanket and book, lay on the grass, listen to music, toss a ball or fly a Frisbee and without worry that you may run into a granite bench, trip over a paver or fall into a garden. Across the street, around the gazebo where children like to run and play freely, a chain-rope fence and retaining wall quickly became necessary. Both erosion and people needed controls after the gazebo gardens were installed a few years ago.

At the edge of lakeside park, there is a dignified memorial honoring WWII veterans. Yet with no published criteria, or prior public notice, personal memorials are now being installed on the green.

Each installation impacts the park, its use and interpretation, with a rippling effect on the harbor and community. A vetted and accepted master plan for the area is important. Yet with no public meetings or minutes, it’s unclear how this new plan fits into the larger picture and the harbor’s public heritage. All is important for community planning and when soliciting support and donations, especially for memorials.

What next …
A public hearing on what will happen to our lakeside green may be held as early as August 11. It could go to the town’s five selectmen for a vote that evening.

ADDITIONAL UPDATE as of August 22, 2008: We are unable to confirm a hearing date on the new “beautification project.” It was tenatively set for Monday, September 8 at the Sunapee Middle High School, in the music room, according to the town. Stay updated by checking meeting minutes and agendas for the select board on the Town of Sunapee website.

10 Responses

  1. Hey, thanks for the Sunapee News. It’s great. I appreciate the efforts of people to keep us informed and up to date. I would love to hear a more open response and welcoming attitude toward public comment. I thought when we grew up in America, we would all have the opportunity to express our views, have them heard, respected and taken into serious consideration. I see that happen occasionally, but not enough. Sometimes it seems I hear disrespectful, hurtful and often intimidating responses and comments being made when citizens express concern over on-goings in our hometown. I don’t get it. it seems it takes courage to express differences in this town. And I know there are lots of people who don’t have that extra energy at the end of the day, dealing with the challenges of work, finances, children, college tuition, increasingly busy schedules, to expend over a granite chicken, mushroom etc. So again to those folks who do have the energy and the stamina to attend meetings, keep informed, speak out and withstand the backlash that seems destined to occur in a small town a heartfelt thank you and sincere appreciation.

  2. The Sunapee Beautification Committee Annual Report to the select board on July 14 indicates the new weeping tree (located next to the Russell Clark memorial in the park) is a weeping Beech tree. For a copy of the Report, email:

  3. The Sunapee Gardners have done a wonderful job planting flowers in and around the harbor. I agree that we should preserve the lakeside park as is for future generations. Please leave it as simple and beautiful as we see it today.

  4. Remember, once it’s gone, you’ll never get it back! Preserve and keep the lakeside park and gazebo green areas open for future generations to enjoy. Enough trees and shrubs have already been planted in both areas. As for the willow tree, I have been told that the roots spread tremendously and can cause problems.

  5. Save the Park. Keep it Green.

  6. Most New Englnd Town commons are noted for their green space. Claremont, New London and Newport are prime examples. The BC and gardeners have done a great job of beautifying the harbor with flowers and shrubs. Why do they now want to clutter it up by taking away the green? It doesn’t make sense. Could this be “overkill”?

  7. The “Beautification” Committee should stick to what we all agree is beautiful…

  8. Did anyone see the letter by Bill Boyce in this week’s InterTown Record? He made some good points.

  9. Private memorials are very meaningful to family members. Garden adornments and ornamentation can be very beautiful. BUT, do they all belong in that little town park?

  10. Here are some Talking Points:* Preserve Sunapee Harbor’s public open space.* Respect and foster harbor-area heritage.* Keep the “green” open and natural.* Establish criteria for public memorials.* Implement a public process BEFORE changing the “green.”

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