Published in the October 2, 2018 edition.


WAKEFIELD —The number of benches around the Lake will remain at 91 for the time being until a policy is created outlining guidelines for handling future requests for memorial benches.

Last week, the Town Council put a freeze on approving any new benches after representatives of the Friends of Lake Quannapowitt came before them and requested that the town look into creating a policy with respect to memorial benches.

Karen Faler appeared before the Council along with FOLQ president Bill Conley to make the request.

She reminded the board that about 20 years ago, FOLQ went to the Board of Selectmen with an idea to upgrade and replace the benches around the lake and on the common, many of which were in poor condition. FOLQ suggested a program, which they would administer, whereby donors could pay for a new bench and have an opportunity to memorialize a loved one in the process.

They told the Town Council that FOLQ administered the program successfully and by 2006 all the pre-existing benches had been replaced. The demand, however, has continued with six to 10 requests received a year. Those requests, Faler said, are referred to Town Hall. But without a clear policy, she maintained, benches have been appearing with varying degrees of authorization.

She said that the lack of a policy has also led to the appearance of benches with different designs. They feared that overcrowding and “design chaos” would result in the continued absence of a policy. Without such policy guidelines, they said, sympathy for families requesting memorial benches tends to overshadow other considerations, such as overcrowding and inconsistent design.

“We think it’s time for a policy that meets the needs of the parks and is fair to prospective donors,” Faler said, adding that the criteria should be the long-term integrity of the areas around the Lake. Faler and Conley suggested that the Town Council appoint a committee to come up with such a policy.

Town Council chairman Peter May agreed that a policy was needed.

He noted that it’s hard for the Town Council to say no to a family that has just lost a loved one.

“If we have a policy, it helps us,” he said.

Town Councilor Paul DiNocco wondered if a moratorium on memorial benches should be declared until a policy is created.

Town Councilor Edward Dombroski pointed out that would-be donors could be directed to other possibilities for memorial donations that would simultaneously enhance the Lake and parklands, such as a new tree or dedicating an existing tree.

Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio suggested that a committee to create a policy on memorial benches could be constituted as follows: One member of FOLQ, one member of the Wakefield Center Neighborhood Association, one member of the Town Council, two representatives of the public, the DPW Parks and Forestry Supervisor, the Town Administrator and the DPW Director.

The Town Council voted unanimously to approve the creation of such a committee and to place a moratorium on new benches around the Lake and the commons until a policy is in place.