Tuesday, July 29, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;76.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/sct.png;2014-07-29 16:53:20
pic1
pic2
pic3
pic4
pic5
pic6
pic7
pic8
pic9
pic10
pic11
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Hudson Engineering Department employees Morgan Miller and Sam White use a GPS to plot points along the trails at Benson's Park Friday, June 4, 2010.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Hudson Engineering Department employees Morgan Miller and Sam White use a GPS to plot points along the trails at Benson's Park Friday, June 4, 2010.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    The Old Woman In The Shoe has been restored at Benson's Park in Hudson, Friday, June 4, 2010.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    The gorilla House sits to the right of the path at Benson's Park Friday, June 4, 2010.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    A view off a balcony shows an area where animals used to roam at Benson's Park Friday, June 4, 2010. Now only bridges, brooks and giant shrubs can be seen there.


  • photo by Don Himsel

    Kyle Kostro and Pete Ripaldi, both 10, put a fresh coat of paint on the Old Woman's Shoe feature at the former Benson's Wild Animal Park in Hudson May 24, 2010.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Hudson Engineering Department employees Morgan Miller and Sam White use a GPS to plot points along the trails at Benson's Park Friday, June 4, 2010.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    The Old Woman In The Shoe has been restored at Benson's Park in Hudson, Friday, June 4, 2010.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    The gorilla House sits to the right of the path at Benson's Park Friday, June 4, 2010.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    A view off a balcony shows an area where animals used to roam at Benson's Park Friday, June 4, 2010. Now only bridges, brooks and giant shrubs can be seen there.


  • Staff file photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    The cleaned-up Benson's property will see dignitaries and other visitors Saturday.
Sunday, June 6, 2010

Benson’s Park springing back to life

HUDSON – In the heyday of Benson’s Wild Animal Farm, crowds poured in to enjoy the spectacle of performers and un-New Hampshire-y creatures, such as elephants and monkeys.

Then, in 1987, Benson’s shut down. During the 23 years since then, the 165-acre property quieted into dormancy.

Now, thanks to the town and a crush of hard-working volunteers, the old farm has been reawakened, officially reopening as a public park.

“The park looks great, and it’s beyond our expectations as far as progress that’s been made,” said Harry Schibanoff, chairman of the town’s Benson Park Committee. “We hope to continue improving it. We’ve not heard a negative comment yet.”

The committee, which has been charged with cultivating volunteers to rehabilitate the park, opened it quietly on May 29. Its hours are 5 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.

Schibanoff said the committee wanted to keep it low-key because work is ongoing. A grand opening is being planned for Sept. 25.

Volunteers started working on the park a year ago, after the town bought the property for $188,000.

Last summer, contractors replaced roofs to stabilize several historic buildings, including the office building, the elephant barn, the A-frame and the gorilla house.

In the meantime, volunteers began cleaning up the property, which had been engulfed with brush.

Work stopped during the winter, Schibanoff said, but a warm spring allowed volunteers – by now 200 – to hold lots of cleanup days.

In that time, they cleared more overgrown brush and bittersweet. The town’s highway department pitched in by spreading loam and seed. There’s now plenty of open space, Schibanoff said, which will soon be grassy enough for picnics and play areas. Many walkways have been repaved and culverts fixed.

The “Old Lady who Lives in a Shoe” structure has also been fully restored.

Resident Pete Ripaldi recruited local Scouts and parents to clean the shoe, which had been covered in graffiti.

The Scouts and Ripaldi, who owns a construction company, repaired its broken sides, reinforced the toe, put in Plexiglas windows, refurbished the interior to look like a little house and painted it.

One of the biggest additions is a series of walking trails blazed in a wooded area in the park. The longest, called the Haselton Farm Trail, is 2.5 miles long.

The rest, called Meadow View, Otter Way, Beaver Path, Oak Ridge, Deer Run and Moose Pond, are shorter.

The next step will be to clean the buildings of graffiti, make repairs and restore them, Schibanoff said. The committee hopes to one day turn the old elephant barn into a museum that would hold Benson’s paraphernalia, and move the train station.

The committee is welcoming additional volunteers for any number of tasks, including landscaping, building rehabilitation, communications and organizing volunteers, Schibanoff said.

Another way to get involved in supporting the park is through the Friends of Benson, which formed in April.

The group exists to raise funds for park improvements through membership fees.

The Friends, headed by resident Ken Matthews and a small committee of community members, is accepting donations from individuals, families and businesses.

In turn, members will be invited to park events and will be eligible for discounts on park merchandise.

For more information on membership and rates, visit www.friendsofbenson.org.

Karen Lovett can be reached at 594-6402 or klovett@nashuatelegraph.com.