PROVINCETOWN — The public landscape committee presented its plan to renovate the Pilgrims’ First Landing Park in the West End at a joint meeting with the select board on Monday, and the selectmen encouraged the committee to find common ground with the dept. of public works. The DPW’s Richard Waldo had presented his own plan, created with landscape designer Todd Westrick, two weeks earlier.
The landscape committee (formerly called the beautification committee) and DPW will update the select board on their progress toward a common plan on Oct. 15.
The landscape committee’s recommendations largely consisted of pruning and removing overgrown vegetation. Selectman John Golden questioned whether the committee even needed approval to do simple “housekeeping.”
Committee member Frank Vasello explained that rejuvenating the park involved more than just tidying up. Removing trees to open up its view of the harbor and resetting paving stones might require more money than the committee is authorized to spend.
Selectman Louise Venden said action must be taken soon to get the park ready for spring 2020. She expressed regret that preparations for the Mayflower 400th anniversary celebration are behind schedule.
“You’re suggesting a two-step process,” said Venden. “It seems to me that’s the only way we can go at this point. We do really need something by next spring.”
The alternate plan presented earlier by Waldo and Westrick would alter the layout of the park, located in the rotary across from the pedestrian entrance to the West End breakwater, to create a visual pathway to the water.
The DPW-Westrick plan also included painting new crosswalks, creating more parking, and resetting into a new pattern the granite memorial paving stones that make up the terrace. Native plantings, like American holly and tupelo, which are easy to maintain and beneficial for pollinators, would be used.
Is DPW’s plan too big?
Before Monday’s meeting, landscape committee chair Bill Docker told the Independent that Westrick’s plan was too large-scale to be finished by spring 2020.
“[Westrick] presented an interesting plan,” Docker said, “but it was really more than what’s needed and probably could not be fully accomplished by spring. We found it to be quite ambitious.”
Docker said that Westrick’s plan to plant several trees would impair the view of the breakwater and communal feel of the park. “When people gather, you don’t want to feel separated by tree trunks, with benches between you,” Docker said.
Docker suggested that Westrick’s plan may be useful for a later phase of the renovation project. Former Town Manager David Panagore had outlined a large-scale renovation of the First Landing Park before resigning earlier this year.
Docker said the park fulfills two functions. First, it memorializes the spot where the Pilgrims first set foot in North America. Second, the park is a peaceful retreat for residents and visitors.
“It’s a soulful, sacred place for the community,” he said. “Read what’s on those stones. We believe that terrace make a beautiful gathering space for any of the events to be held in 2020.”
Selectman Lise King said on Sept. 9 that the planning process should be more transparent. Having more input from the public “complicates things and slows it down,” she said. “But having the town be happy with what we get is more important” than rushing through the process.
King also questioned the lack of recognition for Native Americans in the park. “It’s not just a missed opportunity, but an injustice to not include indigenous [peoples],” she said. “Even if this is a shorter-term plan, we need this in the conversation.”
Town meeting voters authorized the spending of $200,000 towards the project last year; $20,000 has already been spent on surveys and legal fees to obtain jurisdiction over the roads from the Mass. Dept. of Transportation.