(Above:) Tentative plans for phase #3 of the development of the Jim Mitchell Community Park and Amphitheater in Warner calls for the creation of an educational “edible landscape” space.
By Ray Carbone
WARNER – In 2004, the nonprofit organization PlanNH came to town to hold a Community Planning and Design Charette. Katharine Nevins, the owner of Main Street BookEnds, recalled the free event as a special time where both community leaders and residents got together to discuss ways to make the town better.
“We talked about what we wanted to do with the exit 9 (off Interstate 89) area,” she recalled. “What did we see as our strengths? What did we want to do with the downtown, with access to the river, all those kinds of things.”
By that time, Nevins’ brother Jim Mitchell, who co-owned the store with his sister and her husband Neil Nevins, had already begun dreaming about a three-season community park adjacent to the store where the arts could be continually celebrated and advanced. “The charrette reinvigorated the idea, that this is what the town needed, what the community needed,” Nevins recalled. “It needed a focal point for things going on.”
Mitchell died suddenly in 2008, but his family and others associate with the MainStreet Warner nonprofit organization kept the idea alive. Today, the Jim Mitchell Community Park and Amphitheater is a local landmark, a spot for seasonal concerts, theatrical productions and various community events.
And now PlanNH has returned to the give a Merit Award for Excellence in Planning, Design, and Development to MainStreet Warner, Inc., for the creation of the park. The award also recognizes Pellettieri Associates of Warner for the design and construction of the project, which includes the post-and-beam stage designed and built by Peter Ladd, Robert Shoemaker and Charlie Betz.
‘It’s as if the late Jim Mitchell’s town slogan still hovers over the community: There’s something wonderful happening in Warner.’
“It means a great deal to us, to myself and the other (MainStreet Warner) board members to receive this award,” Nevins said. “PlanNH recognizes quality community development in towns and city in New Hampshire. It’s based on sustainability practices and giving back to the community, those kinds of things. For this group to come back and give us this award now, is very special.”
It’s been nine years since the park construction project began, converting an underutilized, slope-challenged, open space into a popular multi-use open park, she said.
And the work is still ongoing, Nevins explained.
“Where the (store’s) solar panels are there’s an asphalt driveway because the building used to be a bank and that was part of the drive-thru,” she said. “All of that asphalt – the plan is for that to come up this summer and that whole section next to the building, underneath the solar panels all the way out to Main Street, will be turned into an example of a living, edible landscape.”
When it’s finished, the area should include raised plant beds, rainwater irrigation, a composting area and educational resources. “Next year, we’ll involve the school and the whole community,” she added.
It’s as if the late Jim Mitchell’s town slogan still hovers over the community: “There’s something wonderful happening in Warner.”
This story first appeared in the InterTown Record, Sutton, N.H., on July 11, 2017.