FITCHBURG — Dozens gathered at Coggshall Park on Monday morning to celebrate the official launch of the Fitchburg Trails Wayfinding Signage project.
“The trails are amazing,” said Friends of Coggshall Park Secretary Mary Cringan, who grew up near the picturesque open space. “We are thrilled to get people here, the crown jewel of Fitchburg.”
Fitchburg Trail Stewards volunteers installed seven kiosks and 56 wayfinding posts throughout the city’s extensive trails system, including nearly a dozen pressure treated wood posts and two kiosks at Coggshall. The project was a result of a collaborative effort between the Trail Stewards and several other city and outside entities.
Mayor Stephen DiNatale joined the group and praised all those who had a part in the project.
“There were so many involved to make this a reality but no more prominent than Mr. Ralph Baker,” he said of the chair of the Fitchburg Trail Stewards. “This is a great day and a great opening.”
DiNatale went on call out others involved in the project by name and noted the posts and kiosks add “so much to the fact that this is one of the greatest amenities of Fitchburg. This is one of the finest examples of how important community is in the city of Fitchburg.”
Baker humbly stated that “all the trails were here, we just put the signs up.”
“We don’t even know all the people who have given us this legacy and what it took to create this,” he said of those that came before them to establish the trail system.
He pointed out that “if you’re out on the trail system, you can find your way” thanks to posts and kiosks, the result of a survey that tipped them off that people were requesting more trail signage.
Cringan handed out stained glass suncatcher ornaments featuring the Coggshall sign surrounded by pink and white rhododendron flowers to the attendees. She said the Friends are “in the process of raising funds for a handicap accessible boardwalk” that will connect the stone house and gazebo at the park, making it ADA accessible for concerts, weddings, and more.
In addition, there were city trail guide brochures available created by the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission, which map out the ten major trails in the city both in English and Spanish.
Baker thanked the city water and parks departments and more who contributed to the project.
“Our hope is to provide greater access to these trails,” he said. “We hope more people will get out and enjoy them.”
Funding for the project came from a $40,000 MassTrails grant procured and administered by the city and $22,000 in required matching volunteer time, which Baker said ended up being well over 500 hours. Trail Stewards volunteer Jen Barlow showed off the wayfinding post she and her boyfriend dug the hole for and installed and talked about them removing several large rocks in the process.
New city Parks and Recreation Director James Bunnell presented Baker and the other Trail Stewards with a citation to acknowledge their efforts. There are only a few more wayfinding sings to install, which the city Department of Public Works will take care of.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life now,” joked Trail Stewards member Larry Casassa after sharing that he and many other dedicated volunteers spent several Saturdays digging holes for the posts and putting up the signs.
A new, large colorful sign placed near Mirror Lake shows a map of the Coggshall trails on one side and the city trails network on the other, both English and Spanish.
Leominster Trail Stewards Stewardship Coordinator Dick O’Brien also had high praise for all the individuals and organizations who took part in the Wayfinding Signage project and noted that most people who visit Coggshall just hike around the water.
“It’s a wonderful thing to give the public the awareness that there’s more than just the trail around the lake,” said O’Brien, who arrived at Coggshall an hour and a half before the gathering to “enjoy the trails.”
“You have done a wonderful job of organizing and implementing the plan,” he said to the Fitchburg Trail Stewards and encouraged them and the city to apply for more grants in the future. “You guys are on the right track, keep it up.”