The Sterilization of Sunrise Park

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I visited Sunrise Park three months after retiring as the park superintendent. I noticed that behind the house and barn, all the shrubs and bushes were removed. My first response was “WOW, how nice this looks.” Then I noticed the area by the volley ball court had all been cleared out as well. My reaction to this was “‘WHY?” Looking at these changes, my first response was what Barbara Chain (former conservation board member) told me when I was first hired. She said, “Keep the park as natural as possible but safe.”

I did as she asked while in the role of park superintendent. It took some time but I managed to do as Barbara asked. Over the years, I understood why this was important. The park is full of wildlife for the public to enjoy and the natural setting of trees and bushes are the homes and food sources for the wildlife. Without them, the wildlife would disappear.

Once the latest Selectman was elected, the natural beauty of the park began to disappear. The selectman and highway manager began to remove vegetation and fallen dead trees. Fallen trees in the pond were removed which was home to the aquatic life of the park. The trees gave turtles a place to ‘sunbathe’. The ducks laid eggs in the heavy brush along the banks of the pond. A variety of birds visited the park and provided residents a chance to see birds not normally seen in town. During the winter months, deer and other animals would graze on the bushes.

My wife and I would visit other parks in neighboring towns and states. We enjoyed seeing how other parks operated and what could we do at Sunrise Park that would benefit the residents of the town of Suffield. Although these parks looked beautiful, some of them did not have much wildlife around. We found an abandoned Girl Scout camp that was full of wildlife and nature.

Yes, Sunrise Park looks more like Bruce Park, but at what cost? Where is the beauty of nature running around in Bruce Park? How many different kinds of species do you see in Bruce Park?

I am not writing this for me or you. I am writing this in memory of Barbara Chain. She had a vision for Sunrise Park. A park that was as natural as possible and enriching experience for all those that visited. 

Thomas Drakely
Retired Sunrise Park Superintendent

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