is an interview series to highlight and celebrate Essex Heritage’s diverse community of partners and supporters. This fall we asked Richard Scott, Supervisor of Bradley Palmer State Park in Topsfield and Essex Heritage Commissioner since 2001 to share his view of Essex Heritage and why he loves the Essex National Heritage Area. Interviewed October 2015
What do you find most inspiring about the Essex National Heritage Area?
There is something about every day in Essex County that is a special event. Maybe it’s the first rays of sunlight piercing their way through the misty meadows of Grassrides at Appleton Farms, maybe it’s the joyful sounds of children screaming in delight at the first chill dip in the waters of Salisbury Beach, or maybe it’s just the tranquil moment of reflection at the end of the day wafting over awestruck observers basking in the peach and pomegranate hues of an Autumn sunset over Ipswich Bay. Regardless of time of day or season of the year, Essex County enriches the lives of all those fortunate enough to live, work or simply visit its magical environment; both natural and human-made.
When did you first become involved with Essex Heritage?
My association with Essex National Heritage Area is one that encompasses both residence and employment. My family and I had the opportunity to live for twenty years on the grounds of Halibut Point State Park in Rockport. I have worked for Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which manages State Parks, for thirty-two years. During my tenure, I have developed programs and events as well as overseen the care and protection of public properties in the ENHA environs such as: Lawrence Heritage State Park, Lynn Heritage State Park, Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover and Middleton, and Bradley Palmer State Park in Topsfield.
What is your favorite place in the Essex National Heritage Area?
Asking me to decide which one was my favorite is like asking a parent to decide which of their children they like best.
I enjoyed interpreting the rich, industrial history of Lawrence. It was humbling to walk in the footsteps of the courageous labor leaders and workers who marched for “Bread & Roses” during the historic strike of 1912. It was inspiring to research and humanize their stories, and to only imagine what hardships they endured to provide us with the better working conditions we posses today. I marveled at the construction of the Great Stone Dam and power canals, and the rise of the “Immigrant City” built around the harnessed, mighty Merrimack River.
In Lynn, I learned how the cottage trade of shoemaking morphed into an immense industry employing thousands. The modest “tenfooters” gave way to the huge brick and mortar edifices, many of which still stand today. I found Lynn to be a hardworking and resilient city, whose strength is echoed in the relentless surf pounding the shore, beach and seawall.
The influence of the Civilian Conservation Corps caught my interest at Harold Parker State Forest. The classic wooden structures, the unique, historic CCC Pavilion, the ruins of the soapstone quarry and the rustic campground on Jenkins Road, all combined to create a wonderful, wilderness experience for the public, even though civilization is only a stone’s through away. It was there that I actually developed my first “Trails & Sails” program; hosting an evening campfire at Berry Pond.
In 1906, a successful lawyer named Bradley Palmer planned and constructed a 720 acre estate which he called “Willow Dale.” He was actually a transplant from Pennsylvania, who had attended Phillips Exeter and Harvard and decided to make Massachusetts his home. His love of nature is apparent as soon as you enter the grounds of this same property, now known as Bradley Palmer State Park. Perhaps he was somewhat influenced and encouraged with this love of flora and fauna by his classmate from Exeter, Gifford Pinchot. It was through his generous bequest in the late 1940’s that this property, as well as much of Willowdale State Forest can now be enjoyed by the public every day of the year. This special place is also home to a new, state of the art wading pool / spray deck recreation space for young children recently constructed by DCR. Additionally, this Park is home to Willowdale Estate; Palmer’s former residence and now a world-class destination wedding and event site.
What is your most memorable Essex Heritage moment, event, or program?
I have had memorable experiences in all of these sites and more. I feel blessed that I have had the opportunity to live, work and play in such a culturally and naturally diverse area. Moreover, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to engage the public and instill in them the same love and attachment I feel for this incredible Area. Whether it is on the white-capped water, walking the listing deck of the Friendship; on the hallowed ground, hiking the intricate trails of Dogtown, or in the quiet confines of the Peabody Essex Museum perusing the exquisite art and artifacts; the Essex National Heritage Area has something for everyone.
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