Zion Lutheran Church is solidifying its relationship with its neighbor of a century and a half.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — In a show of solidarity with its next door neighbor, Zion Lutheran Church will for the first time hold its longtime annual picnic in the adjacent downtown park, which will still be in peak construction in the final phases of its multimillion dollar renovation.
"The church has a longtime history of holding some sort of picnic event in September to coincide with the start of the school year," the Rev. Timothy Weisman told the Parks Commission this past week. "With the wonderful renovation work that's happening at Pittsfield Common, and the fact that we've been next door to one another for 154 years, it seems like as good a time as any to have that picnic right in downtown Pittsfield."
The Sept. 7 picnic will be the first formal event held in the Common since it began renovation three summers ago, though it has rarely been empty of activity throughout the construction process.
Parks and Open Spaces Manager James McGrath said the Great Lawn area where the picnic will be held, along with its playground area, remain open and fully accessible.
"Our contractors have been really great about sectioning off where they work," according to McGrath, who told the Parks Commission on Tuesday he could not foresee any issues with such an event being held.
"We don't need much space," said Weisman. "It's a very simple event, but just to be able to have that here instead of trucking it off somewhere, I think is a big statement in support of the park and in support of our downtown community."
"Hopefully, it's the first of many great events there," said Chairman Dr. John Hermann.
The Common is currently undergoing Phases 3 and 4 of planned redesign simultaneously, and McGrath reports that all major facets of the remaining work are currently underway, including the performance pavilion, gazebo, basketball court, and sprinkler sprayground, and a bathroom structure.
"We're in good shape with the project," said McGrath, "We continue to be on schedule and within budget."
McGrath said the city is currently working with Western Massachusetts Electric Co., Verizon and Time Warner to have them reroute existing overhead lines underground, in compliance from a suggestion made by Gov. Deval Patrick during his visit to the site, but that most of the cost of this was being absorbed by those utility companies.
"I think overall the appearance of the park will be improved, without poles and overhead wires," McGrath added.
The renovation is expected to be principally completed by early November, with some finalizing in the spring.