WORCESTER - City officials broke ground at Green Hill Park Wednesday on a re-imagining of the World War I Memorial Grove.
Truth is, there was plenty of ground already broken before councilors, community groups and city administrators grabbed the ceremonial golden shovels to signal the start of construction. Heavy equipment had already scraped out the area at the site of the old amphitheater, dug into the side of one of the park’s rolling hills. Fencing surrounds the site, and a long dirt road for construction vehicles was already in place.
Things are happening fast, and the project — a collaboration of the city, the Green Hill Park Coalition, Worcester Technical High School, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and the Worcester Tree Initiative — is on track for a ribbon cutting on Nov. 11.
City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. pointed out that’s Veterans Day, and will also mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Those veterans are long gone, but will never be forgotten, he said.
He said Worcester Tech students are re-forging the old archway that led to the old memorial grove, a cluster of trees planted after World War I with each tree representing a veteran who did not come home, and memorialized with a plaque at each trunk.
The city worked with WPI on the design of the new feature of the memorial grove, which will include hundreds of metal cylinders, each etched with the name of a fallen World War I veteran. And over the past year the Worcester Tree Initiative has planted more than 150 trees in the area of the old grove; it only has about 10 trees left to go, said tree initiative community forester Derek Lirange.
Mr. Lirange said while most of the original trees in the grove were maples, the onslaught of invasive species in recent years like the Asian longhorned beetle prompted the initiative to diversify the species used in the new grove. He said hopefully five to 10 years from now the new plantings will realize their full impact on the landscape.
Brian McCarthy of the Green Hill Park Coalition said the project started as a “pie in the sky” idea a couple of years ago, but got early support from Robert Antonelli and Paul Moosey of the Department of Public Works and Parks. He said Mr. Augustus was also receptive, and said military historians have told him the city has a reputation for continuing to find new ways to honor its veterans. He said 300 to 400 people from the city died fighting in World War I.
“I think we owe them a great debt, a debt that will go on forever,” Mr. McCarthy said.
City Councilors Morris Bergman, Candy Mero-Carlson and Kathleen Toomey also attended the small ceremony, along with Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. Mr. Bergman said the condition of a city’s memorials is a reflection of how much it cares about its veterans, and Ms. Mero-Carlson said she looks forward to the Veterans Day ribbon-cutting.