By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
It won’t be just another walk in the park come mid-August in Melrose. For one thing, many more pair of feet will be trodding across the city park. For another, the occasion — a celebration of the town’s 100th anniversary — takes on special significance.
Just over a month away now, former Melrose citizen Lois Lesley is at the fore of making sure that Baxter Memorial Park is at its best when the centennial event takes place.
She’s looking for some major help on Tuesday in the form of able-bodied volunteers to put plants in the ground.
“We usually don’t have a very good turnout, because the younger ones that can do the work are usually at work,” said Lesley, who now lives in Clovis.
“The ones that want to help are usually … closer to 80 (years of age) than they would like to admit.”
Lesley, 75, is hoping a 7 a.m. start time will help matters.
“We need to get the metal edging on the flower bed moved back, because every time they mow they’re swinging over it and cutting off our plants,” she said.
“Then we need to get another flower bed cleaned out and we’ve got 10 monkey grass plants, which are not very big, and three rose bushes to put out.”
This week’s improvements are just a small part of the park renovations that have been going on the last two years.
In that time span, Lesley estimates 100 big plants and several smaller ones have been installed to border the park in preparation for the city’s annual Old Timer’s Day. This year, on Aug. 13, that regular celebration will also serve as the starting point for Melrose to mark the town’s 100th birthday.
Other improvements that Lesley hopes will be in place for the centennial festivities include a veteran’s memorial and a white rod iron fence, with an archway, at the entrance of the park.
Already, an octagon-shaped structure made out of bricks -— bearing the names of donors and donors’ families -— has been installed.
“This will be the biggest of them all. I would estimate somewhere around 3,000 people will be coming,” said Leon Cooper, an Albuquerque resident who designed the brick octagon in the center of the park. “It won’t be much less than that — and it might be more.
“People will be coming in and out of the park socializing,” Cooper said. “Following the parade, everyone will go over to the park. It can’t even hold them all. Many people will be out on the streets.”