Historic Hood Park to get some town care

RYAN HUTTON/File photoHood Pond sits covered in fresh snow recently. The pond was once a popular summer spot for swimming lessons and other activities. The town is now working on ways to bring the pond area and adjoining park back to life

DERRY — A local park many consider to be a gem near the downtown is slated for some improvements and upgrades.

Hood Park, a spot off Rollins Street that has served generations of families with its waterfront, playground and other facilities, is part of an overall plan to spring new life and improvements into Derry's parks and recreational areas.

The town completed an update to its Master Plan and participated in a recreational needs assessment, a study of the community's parks, fields, programs and other entities where residents enjoy sports, play and other time in the outdoors.

That put an emphasis again on Hood Park and what can be done to bring the local spot back to a safe, and welcome location.

A Hood Park Steering Committee was formed to reach out to the public to discover the community's vision of what should be retained, changed, or added to the park through surveys and other public information gathering. The group worked in collaboration with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.

Members of that steering group offered an update to Town Council at a recent meeting with chairman Mark Brassard saying Hood Park and its adjoining pond is a community resource needing support.

"It's a uniquely Derry resource," Brassard said, adding the park is close to the downtown, near the town's trail system and, if improved, would serve the town well as a spot to draw in people to not only enjoy the park but to eat, shop and take advantage of all Derry has to offer.

Hood Park was a popular summer swimming spot for many years, with youth swimming lessons taking place every summer. But due to the lack of lifeguard interest and often poor pond water quality, that program faded over the years.

The park still offers basketball, tennis, picnic tables, playground, fishing, biking and trails. But the park, named to honor the prominent Hood family of Derry, has fallen on quieter times.

Much history is connected to the park as well, with historians often telling the stories of how ice blocks were harvested from the pond as part of the Hood milk production efforts.

Many have memories of the park.

"My kids all grew up and went to Hood Park," Town Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores said. "There were crafts, they learned to swim. I'd love to see that come back."

Some projects that could be done easily would be cleaning up some over brush around trails, upgrading playground equipment and replacing benches.

Placing a smaller style Splashpad, similar to what is located at Don Ball Park, might be a possibility.

Public Works Director Michael Fowler said some projects could be done "right out of the chute."

Other projects, including looking at the pond's water quality, could take some time and more study, he said.

Town Councilor Jim Morgan said improving Hood Park would be a way to add support to the entire community.

"It really is the jewel of Derry," Morgan said of the park. He hoped to fast-track some projects to see results in the summer of 2022.

"It's an opportunity we really need to focus on," Morgan said.

Other recreational possibilities and action items are being considered for other areas of town, Fowler said. He added the Derry Recreation Department intends to "go full steam ahead" in planning summer sports leagues, programs and concerts, safety protocols willing.

"We put ourselves in 'go mode' with the funding we have available," Fowler said.

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