1812 Park may not be as old as its name, but it is in need of a facelift.
An anonymous donor has come forward willing to foot the bill to renovate the park. Landscape architect Rodney Robinson said the contributor's goal is to attract more daily visitors and better portray the role of Lewes in the War of 1812. He presented a illustrative plan to the parks and recreation commission April 21.
“Right now there are so many things and, for my taste, there's a little too much clutter,” he said. “I would suggest we just try to simplify it.”
By moving some components and adding new elements, he said, officials could accomplish his client's goal, making the park more inviting while improving the view into the park and across the canal from the sidewalk and street.
The commission supported the request and sent the recommendation on to city council.
The plan calls for the addition of a second brick path, which would encourage visitors to walk through the entire park. New park benches would give guests a place to rest canalside and enjoy the park longer.
A century-old monument is currently set back and surrounded by overgrown boxwood shrubs, obscuring it to most park visitors. Robinson suggested removing the shrubs and moving the marker closer to Front Street. He said it would draw more attention to the park's significance while also providing for identifying and informational signs to be moved elsewhere in the park.
“I've been watering the plants in that park for six or seven years and I didn't know the monument existed, it was so hidden,” he said.
Moving the monument may not be easy, though. Commission Chair Carol Richardson said she first must learn the history of the marker and determine if and how it can be moved.
Other recommendations include new plantings to buffer the park from a neighboring parking lot and residences, new light posts and other minor changes.
If approved by city council, Robinson said, work could begin this year. Because the project is large in scale, he said, the work would likely be completed in phases.
The plan drew unanimous support from commissioners. Golde said the plan is very well done and should accomplish everything the donor wishes.
“It really will invite people to come and see the park and understand the history of the park,” he said. “It has more historical value than any of the other parks in Lewes, and I think that should be emphasized.”
Commissioner Christine Besche said the plan does a good job of blending 1812 Park with the rest of the Second Street section of Lewes. She said the park is used often by families and expects the number of visitors to increase when work is complete.
“It's a lovely plan,” she said. “I love how it's tying into the downtown area and sort of carrying over that historical feel into an area that is pretty high profile.”
Richardson said she is confident the changes are just what the park needs.
“I think we're going to see a major improvement and really do the park the justice that it deserves,” she said.