A £20,000 plan to ‘reinvigorate’ Alma J Watchorn Park in Alfreton is underway – thanks to the persistence of a local pensioner.
The small tract of pathways, flower beds and benches alongside Derby Road was donated to people of the town by entrepreneur Robert Watchorn in 1929.
But the lime tree strewn area, owned by Amber Valley Borough Council, had become overgrown and untidy in the years since World War Two.
Now thanks to the efforts of 85-year-old Ron Padley, of Ellesmere Avenue, the borough council this week started work ‘pollarding’ trees, clearing shrubs and revealing long muddied over pathways in a bid to restore some of its former lustre.
Former miner Mr Padley petitioned the authority to act because he felt the park provided an unsightly first impression of Alfreton at the town’s entrance.
He said: “It wanted letting folks know that they’re coming into a decent place.
“I’m one of these people who thinks if it looked nice then - we ought to keep it nice.”
Mr Padley, a keen amateur historian, has kept pictures of the park in its former heyday - which shows the site with clearly landscaped pathways, neat flower beds and railings.
Alfreton born Robert Watchorn left the park to his native town along with a church and 36 houses as gifts after he emigrated to the USA. He made a fortune as president of a gas and oil company in Oklahoma City and dedicated the park to his wife Alma, a plaque of which can still be seen by the entrance to the park.
But its decline started early in World War Two when the iron railings were stripped from around the site to help towards the Allied munitions effort. In latter years the lime trees had become so overgrown they cast the small park in shadow.
Great-grandfather-of-two Mr Padley, who served in the army in 1946 continued: “To me it didn’t give you a very good impression when you come off the A38.
“It’s not meant to be a dump, it’s a memorial park.
“In days of yore, people who were married at the church would all come down here and have their photos taken.”
Simon Gladwin of Amber Valley Borough Council’s landscape services says the restoration project will take three years and involve cutting back the trees to allow more light into the area. Criminal offenders last month began clearing shrubs from the site as part of the Community Payback Scheme.
The council also aims to sow grass seeds, fit new benches and keep regular maintenance of the land over the course of the project.
Cabinet member for environment Cllr Peter Makin launched the renovation after meeting Mr Padley, who was station officer at Alfreton Fire Station for 30 years, at a council Have Your Say event in Somercotes in October.
He said: “Ron came along to the meeting and said he had this long held concern about the park.
“I had a word with landscape services and we agreed on making some improvements.
He added: “I find that this is what politics should be about - a partnership of everyone working together.
“I was really impressed by Ron’s sincerity and his keenness.”