Edgar May's Gift Brings Newest State Park To Springfield
Edgar May believed that every child should have access to fresh air and outdoor activities.
Ethan Phelps remembers standing along a brook with the former Vermont senator near May's home in Springfield, and talking about the future of the property.
"He had a history of working in civil service and non-profit agencies," says Phelps, a regional director with the Vermont State Parks system. "And he was greatly concerned with getting, especially, impoverished children, and kids at risk outside, and providing opportunities for them to hopefully give them a better future."
May, who was 83 at the time, said he wanted to make sure his land remained accessible to the people of Vermont after he was gone.
May won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Buffalo, N.Y. public welfare system. He was deputy director of VISTA and served as chief operating officer of Special Olympics.
May died about six months after he met Phelps out by the brook. Now almost three years later his beloved home in Springfield is about to become Vermont's newest state park.
May's estate is donating the property to the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation and providing some seed money for programming and restoration.
Phelps expects the deal to be finalized before the end of this year.
The property is about three miles from the center of Springfield and it includes May's former home, a pond, an 80-foot waterfall and a small hydro dam with a power house.
"I remember standing on the dam with him, and him saying explicitly, 'I want kids to be able to come from downtown and come up here to a place where they can look out at the pond, they can see a beaver, they can interact with nature, they can paddle a canoe on the pond, and really get out," Phelps says.
In keeping with May's vision, Phelps says the state has established ties with the Springfield school district and the local recreation center.
"He had a history of working in civil service and non-profit agencies, and he was greatly concerned with getting, especially, impoverished children, and kids at risk outside, and providing opportunities for them to hopefully give them a better future." Ethan Phelps - Regional Director with Vermont State Parks
There are plans to run a summer camp through the VISTA program at the new state park next summer.
The state is making a special effort to reach out to the schools and nonprofit groups, Phelps says, to create sustainable, year-round programs.
"This isn't going to be a typical state park like what we have," Phelps says. "This is going to be a pretty new model for us. It's going to be focused on the local community. It'll be focused on really getting kids outside."
The town of Springfield has already approved the project and the state will be providing the town with a payment in lieu of taxes when the property is off the tax roll.
The park will be open to all Vermonters, and Phelps hopes to eventually establish walking and mountain bike trails as well as opportunities for snow shoeing and cross country skiing.