Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 4:45 PM
BUILDING MCCONNELL SPRINGS PARK--TRULY A GRASS ROOTS EFFORT
In 1775, a group of settlers and explorers camped on the side of a karst valley with a large spring claimed by William McConnell. Upon receiving word of the first battle of the Revolutionary War fought near Lexington, Mass., they named their settlement Lexington. By 1985 the site had become a dumping ground for municipal waste and a proposed site for an industrial park. Tons of fill had been dumped on the tract. Trash haulers, upon finding the city landfill closed, drove across the street onto the McConnell Springs tract. Although much debris found its way into the valley, a city ordinance against filling sinkholes prevented the springs from being buried. In 1992, the development company for the industrial park declared bankruptcy and the property reverted to the bank. Community interest in conserving the springs grew, led by Jim Rebmann, city Division of Planning, and Councilwoman Isabel Yates, who created a group of volunteers, the Friends of McConnell Springs Inc. The bank agreed to donate 25 acres surrounding the springs if volunteers could raise $130,000 to purchase 3.5 level acres for an education center. The Friends were successful in raising the money from hundreds of citizens and local corporations. Cleanup work was donated, walking paths and an education center were constructed, and the springs became an outstanding recreational-environmental education park near downtown Lexington. Now a city park, the karst valley with its sinkholes, springs, streams, bluehole, and wetlands area became an excellent area in which to teach about the interconnectedness of ground and surface water and water pollution. A large limestone quarry lies beneath the area, showing that industry and the environment can co-exist. Field trips focus on geology, history, botany and urban wildlife, and the Friends continue their support through educational activities, research, fundraising, and site improvement.