When Cliff Lezark was a young boy, he spent a lot of time at Massasoit Park, right around the corner from his parents’ house at the bottom of Baker Street, on the Warren River.
The park has seen better days and Cliff doesn’t go there as much as he used to. But that will change Saturday, August 24, when he shows up with troops 20 to 25 strong.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Cliff, 16, a student at the Wheeler School and a Boy Scout in Warren’s Troop 25.
Cliff has spent months organizing a complicated and extensive Eagle Scout project. He plans to refurbish the park to its former glory, and even hopes to finish some of the work that was promised years ago but never completed, for one reason or another.
He received the town’s blessing for most of the project at last week’s Warren Town Council meeting, and council president Chris Stanley said he was impressed:
“He took on a pretty big project, and he’s doing a great job,” he said.
Massasoit Park was dedicated in October 2000, after it was envisioned by Warren artists and husband and wife team Allison and Spencer Newsome and supporters in the neighborhood.
They wanted a place where kids could go and hang out, while also paying respect to the area’s Wampanoag heritage. Massasoit’s Spring, where a plaque honors Wampanoag Sachem Massasoit, is just a stone’s throw from the park.
While a playground covers the western portion of the park, the eastern edge sports four large stones found in Touisset and placed in a north/south/east/west configuration. The original intent was for each to bear sandblasted Native American phrases to signify the four points on the compass, as well as four animals — the bear, turtle, wolf and whale.
“They essentially talk about certain parts of Wampanoag mythos and tribal values, things like learning, peace.”
Only one of the stones was carved, though, and Cliff hopes to work with the Warren Monument Company, which was involved 13 years ago, to sandblast the missing phrases.
That portion of the project is still up in the air, as Cliff is researching the correct phraseology and still needs to have the inscriptions signed off on by the town before any work is done.
Originally, Cliff’s sole plan was to beautify the playground area where he played as a kid. He’d seen graffiti there, and wanted it cleaned up.
“But once I really learned the history of the park, the (native portion) really became the centerpiece. It may not be the part that stands out the most, but I think that the cultural significance of this is way more important.”
Not that he’s forsaking the playground. Cliff is working with the monument company, Jamestown Distributors in Bristol, the Warren DPW and others to refurbish the western portion of the park, and plans to come out Saturday to do the work.
The large ship will be sandblasted and repained, and the entire area will be cleaned up and repaired where needed.
“It’s been a lot of work, but I’m ready to get started on it,” he said. “I have a lot of good memories of this park.”