GREG ACKLEY MEMORIAL PARK
Popular Gazebo, Lighthouse Sculpture and Five Flower Beds
The LIA maintains five flower beds in this town park.
A summer festival of colors surrounds the gazebo.
The gazebo is named in honor of Vicki Soto.
Marigolds circle the Little Free Library.
'Take a book, return a book' at the Little Free Library.
Residents designed and built this Lordship welcome.
Coastal plants wave at the lighthouse sculpture.
The refurbished lighthouse features marine life.
Garden Captain Charlie Lautier leads spring cleanup.
Daffodils awaken this flower bed to spring ...
... impatiens frolic through summer and early fall...
... and even Santa might appear in December!
- John Florian photos.
Garden Volunteers: Charlie Lautier (Captain), Ann Fariss, John Florian, Marianne Cox
By Charlie Lautier
Greg Ackley Memorial Park (originally Rose Park) - a triangular park in the Lordship section of Stratford, CT known for its distinctive gazebo, lighthouse sculpture and multiple flower beds - is bounded by Stratford Road, Prospect Drive and Maple Street (see LIA Gardens Map).
The park was donated as an open space to the town of Stratford by the Lordship Park Association (a prime residential developer in Lordship) in the 1930s, and is named in memory of Gregory Ackley (November 29, 1951 – February 27, 1999).
Greg was a lifelong resident of Lordship and is best remembered for his good deeds as the #1 Volunteer to the Lordship community, which earned him the sobriquet, “Mayor of Lordship.” (Click here for more about Greg’s remarkable life.)
LORDSHIP COMMUNITY GAZEBO
The dominant feature of the park is the beautiful “Lordship Community Gazebo,” built in the shape of an octagon with a domed roof, on top of which is mounted a cupola.
This magnificent addition to the park was generously built by Eagle Scout and Lordship resident Michael Motola, with the aid of his father, and dedicated on April 6, 2013 at the Lordship Community Fellowship Hall.
Michael funded the project with donations from friends and community businesses by delivering fliers and holding fund-raising events in the park. He received a special Town of Stratford Service Award for his efforts in beautifying the community. (Click here for more details on the gazebo building project.)
In addition to being known as the “Lordship Community Gazebo,” the structure was named in memory of former Lordship resident and elementary school teacher, Vicki Leigh Soto (November 4, 1986 - December 14, 2012), who tragically lost her life at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
A ‘LITTLE FREE LIBRARY’
Vicki is also remembered in the park by the installation of a Little Free Library, which has the inscription, “In memory of Vicki Soto and her love of books…Teacher, Hero, Angel…Live , Laugh, Love.”
On November 7, 2013, a Lordship community member posted the following article titled, “Little Free Library Dedicated in Lordship”:
In honor of Victoria Soto, a Little Free Library was installed on Sunday, November 3rd near the benches at Ackley Park in Lordship. The inspiration came from Vicki’s aunt, Debbie Fagan Cronk, a Lordship resident. Debbie’s husband, Rob, built the pedestal; Mike Stowe, a Stratford carpenter, built the structure, a replica of a schoolhouse. Here is a definition of a Little Free Library from the organization’s home page (http://littlefreelibrary.org.)
“It's a ‘take a book, return a book’ gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share.”
This is a fitting memorial to a dedicated teacher, which we are proud to have placed in Lordship.
‘WELCOME TO LORDSHIP’ SIGN
A more recent addition to the park is the “Welcome to Lordship” sign, designed by Lordship Improvement Association (LIA) member Aimee Sprogis, and built, painted, and installed by LIA member Hans Drenkard, ably assisted by LIA member Roger Cox. Hans also recently restored the sign, which had become weather-beaten, and added solar lights, which makes the sign visible at night.
‘SEA UNDER SUNLIGHT’ LIGHTHOUSE
Another popular feature came to the park on November 19, 2018, when the lighthouse sculpture, which was an entry in the Town’s “Light the Way, 2017” outdoor art show was dedicated.
The original design, ”Sea Under Sunlight” and painting of the lighthouse was the work of artist Taryn Pelli. Severe weathering caused her artwork to become badly deteriorated. Thanks to the generous efforts of two LIA members and artists, Karen Kochiss and Karen Tomscheck, the sculpture was beautifully repainted in 2021 with a very attractive new marine design of their own.
In October of 2021 the sculpture was temporarily removed from the park to address an issue with the design of the top of the sculpture, which allowed rainwater to accumulate, causing severe peeling of the paint. It is being restored and will return to the park soon.
The sculpture probably would not have found a home in the park were it not for the wonderful idea of Howard Aspinwall, owner of the Mellow Monkey gift store in Stratford, to create a GoFundMe initiative to bid on it at an auction, and then donate the sculpture to the Lordship community.
In order to install the scultpure at the park, a base to mount it on was needed. LIA Board member and horticulturist par excellence Kevin Regan came to the rescue by building a circular concrete pad to accept the sculpture, with anchor bolts to safeguard against theft.
LIA members Tom Halverson, Richard Diedrichsen and Kevin worked together to mix 22 bags of concrete for the pad. Kevin also created the landscaping design around the pad, consisting of beach stone and colorful flowers and grasses.
LIA MAINTAINS 5 FLOWER BEDS
The maintenance of the five flower beds within the park has been the responsibility of a group of gardeners of the LIA’s Parks and Beautification Committee.
The present group of gardeners includes Ann Fariss, Charlie Lautier (Captain), John Florian and until very recently, Aimee Sprogis. Marianne Cox also enthusiastically helps when we are short-handed. And Kevin Regan steps in when heavy-duty work, such as tilling the soil, is required.
LIA membership dues fund the purchase of flowers throughout the growing season. Dues also help to fund the purchase of seasonal decorations for the gazebo.
The flowers you see on display in the park begin in spring with daffodils (Stratford’s Town Flower), planted around the gazebo. When the daffodils have faded, they are replaced by New Guinea impatiens. Hanging baskets, filled with various flowers, are installed in the gazebo’s bays.
Elsewhere in the park are marigolds, vinca vines at the Little Free Library flower bed, impatiens at the Welcome Sign, and hydrangeas, gladioli, beach grass, and rose bushes at the triangular flower bed.
The flower bed surrounding the lighthouse sculpture features plants appropriate for a coastal environment, including perennial day lilies, beach grass and flowering annuals such as yellow marigolds.
In recognition of the beautiful flower displays at the park, and the efforts of the volunteer gardeners, Stratford’s Town Beautification Committee presented the LIA with a Volunteer Service Award in 2016.
TOWN MAINTAINS THE PARK
The general maintenance of the park, such as mowing, trimming trees, and attending to the park’s fence repair issues, is the responsibility of the Town’s Parks Division of Public Works.
Credit is due to the staff of the Parks Division for their prompt responsiveness to issues that arise within the park.
One of the most important, and extremely useful, additions to the park by the Parks Division was the installation of a spigot for the LIA gardeners for watering the flower beds. Prior to that, the LIA gardeners depended on the generosity of neighborhood homes to fill watering cans and carry them into the park.
The Parks Division at the same time installed a drinking fountain for the benefit of park visitors.
POPULAR FOR EVENTS
The park’s gazebo and surrounding flower beds have drawn the attention of couples who wish to use it as a venue for their wedding ceremony. (Such use of the park requires a town permit.)
Musical events have also been held at the gazebo, and in autumn of 2021, the park was the venue for the inaugural “Art in the Park” arts and crafts show, organized by Aimee Sprogis and Charles and Pat Marqua.
Even Santa Claus found a seat to meet kids here when the Lordship Fathers Club hosted its annual Breakfast with Santa at the gazebo in December 2021.
See: About the author.
Volunteer! Enjoy meeting and working with your neighbors to enhance and preserve Lordship’s beauty. Say hello at LordshipIA@gmail.com.