PEABODY — This city chose to honor its warriors yesterday by dedicating a place of peace — a place where children can play and others can sit and walk and enjoy a bit of greenery downtown.
With Memorial Day in the offing, the East End Peabody Veterans Memorial Park, a new park off Walnut Street on the grounds of a former tannery, was dedicated by Mayor Ted Bettencourt and the Peabody Veterans Council.
The park, Bettencourt told a gathering that overflowed a tent meant to keep the rain off everyone, “pays tribute to those who sacrificed so much so we can enjoy the freedoms and prosperity that we take for granted.” He added, surveying the site, “For a new mayor, this is as good as it gets.”
Naval Reserve Lt. Bob Dunne, the featured speaker, called it, “another example of the city’s spirit and its dedication to its veterans.” There’s a tradition here, he said, that citizens “step up” when called to serve, a tradition that can be traced all the way back to the Colonial era.
More specifically, he said, “The residents of the East End have served in extraordinary numbers. ... They do it without fanfare. They do it because it must be done.”
An Iraq War veteran, Dunne is the husband of School Committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne, who was also in attendance.
Representing the state, Kerry Bowie of the Department of Environmental Protection touched on the steps taken to make the new park safe for children, including removing contaminated soil in the 1.3-acre area.
On the other hand, if the former leather tannery left behind toxic materials, he also noted the Memorial Day-related good done as a result. “They put a lot of boots on the ground in World War I,” he noted, and in this case he meant the actual boots.
One important advocate for the park was not able to attend. D-Day veteran Tony Koutzoukis is in the hospital, according to Ray Silva of the Veterans Council. “Tony is not doing so well,” Silva told the gathering. But he added that Koutzoukis, who earned a Bronze Star, had passed on a message.
“He said, ‘Please go there and give them my thanks.’”
Ginny Campbell, of the nearby Peabody House affordable housing, declared, “I’m fortunate my apartment looks out on the park ... on trees and grass. You don’t know how many people use this park every day. I do. ... We’re looking forward to a summer full of activity.”
The park includes a circular walkway that some older residents already walk each day. There are benches for rest. Granite boulders provide a play area for small children. And decking leads to an elevated stage that can be used for events, including concerts.
The grounds, meanwhile, have been landscaped in anticipation of surviving the occasional flood.
Bettencourt took time out to salute former Mayor Mike Bonfanti and several others in city government who helped make the park a reality. Moreover, the mayor noted that the spot can be used by the library for outdoor activities, including everything from art exhibitions, poetry readings and dance performances.