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WSPA marks 35th anniversary by memorializing two members

WSPA board member Kathi Govatski, left, of Jefferson dedicated the newly installed granite bench to key volunteer, the late Iris Baird of Lancaster, on Thursday, Aug. 24, at Weeks State Park in Lancaster. WSPA president, Sally Pratt of Lancaster, served as the evening's master of ceremonies. (Photo by Edith Tucker) (click for larger version)
September 05, 2018
LANCASTER — The important contributions of two key members of the Weeks State Park Association (WSPA) were permanently commemorated on Thursday evening, Aug. 23, at an outdoor ceremony in the shadow of the stone Fire Lookout Tower on Mt. Prospect (elevation 2,058 feet) in Weeks State Park.

WSPA president Sally Pratt of Lancaster served as master of ceremonies at its annual meeting, this year designed both to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the nonprofit organization's first annual meeting and to honor the late Philip F. Quinn, Jr. of Whitefield and the late Iris Baird of Lancaster.

Quinn founded the WSPA, and a plaque will now inform visitors his leadership role in having the Park avoid what likely would have been its permanent shuttering.

When a 20 percent state Parks budget cut was put in place under Gov. Hugh Gallen of Littleton, Quinn mobilized a group of local citizens and negotiated with the-then Division of Parks Director Paul Doherty of Gorham to kept the Park open. This ultimately resulted in the creation of the all-volunteer WSPA, formalized in 1983, which continues to play an important role as an advocate and a financial supporter of on-site programs and amenities.

A granite bench with a sweeping view to the east was dedicated to Baird, who worked tirelessly to advance the Park's well-being. Baird worked hard to gain the fire tower's entry into the National Historic Lookout Register. She and her husband, Bill, had a deep affection for Mt. Prospect, and both enthusiastically carried out many volunteer activities. Baird was a wildflower expert and could identify any plant in the Park. The back of the bench not only has her name etched into it but also pictures of both the fire tower and (yellow) lady slippers.

The evening also included the 10th and last indoor summer program, featuring the Comfort Country Band. The annual autumn wildflower walk is set from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 9.

Besides organizing the summer program schedules, the WSPA provided $15,000 to help pay for the much-needed stucco repair work and other expenses: $1,400 to restore and frame photographs in the Lodge and $500 to print a new geology brochure. The WSPA also paid for new wooden guard rails, assisted by the Coos Economic Development Corporation (CEDC).

Pratt noted that the financial support of over 30 area businesses has played a very big part in keeping the WSPA in good financial shape. UNH Cooperative Extension provides considerable logistical support.

Both Director Phil Bryce of the state Parks and Recreation Department and Director Ben Wilson of the Bureau of Historic Sites within that Division were on hand on Thursday evening along with Parks manager Rachel Bruce, several state employees and WSPA board members.

Governor and Council will meet in the Weeks Lodge at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 5, at the request of District I Executive Councilor Joe Kenney of Wakefield.

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