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Toy Fund: Landscape architect Nicholas Dines honored for his gardens, parks in Williamsburg

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Landscape architect Nicholas Dines of Williamsburg used white fir, native holly, evergreen geranium and Goshen stone in the design of the town's Angel Park located behind the Williamsburg Historical Society on Main Street. Dines has been recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects for his prono bono service to the town.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Landscape architect Nicholas Dines of Williamsburg used white fir, native holly, evergreen geranium and Goshen stone in the design of the town's Angel Park located behind the Williamsburg Historical Society on Main Street. Dines has been recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects for his prono bono service to the town. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Nicholas Dines of Williamsburg has been recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects for his prono bono service revitalizing several spaces in the town including Angel Park which is located behind the Williamsburg Historical Society on Main Street.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Nicholas Dines of Williamsburg has been recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects for his prono bono service revitalizing several spaces in the town including Angel Park which is located behind the Williamsburg Historical Society on Main Street. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Landscape architect Nicholas Dines of Williamsburg used white fir, native holly, evergreen geranium and Goshen stone in the design of the town's Angel Park located behind the Williamsburg Historical Society on Main Street. Dines has been recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects for his prono bono service to the town.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Landscape architect Nicholas Dines of Williamsburg used white fir, native holly, evergreen geranium and Goshen stone in the design of the town's Angel Park located behind the Williamsburg Historical Society on Main Street. Dines has been recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects for his prono bono service to the town. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Landscape architect Nicholas Dines of Williamsburg used white fir, native holly, evergreen geranium and Goshen stone in the design of the town's Angel Park located behind the Williamsburg Historical Society on Main Street. Dines has been recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects for his prono bono service to the town.
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Nicholas Dines of Williamsburg has been recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects for his prono bono service revitalizing several spaces in the town including Angel Park which is located behind the Williamsburg Historical Society on Main Street.
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Landscape architect Nicholas Dines of Williamsburg used white fir, native holly, evergreen geranium and Goshen stone in the design of the town's Angel Park located behind the Williamsburg Historical Society on Main Street. Dines has been recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects for his prono bono service to the town.

Former University of Massachusetts Amherst professor and local landscape architect Nicholas T. Dines took that call to heart.

“We are a richer town, not just a prettier one, because of Nick,” said Lisa Wenner, director of the Meekins Library, where Dines created gardens and transformed a neglected area near the Mill River into a new park by shoring up the river bank, regrading a section of lawn, installing new wrought-iron fencing, and creating a patio which bench seating.

Wenner said that project not only provides a relaxing outside space for visitors and library staff, but also makes the Mill River more visible and welcoming to the public.

The Meekins gardens are far from the only places where Dines’ handiwork can be seen. He has designed, built, and installed public gardens throughout Williamsburg. Together with a several dedicated volunteers, Dines, 70, who lives at 9 North St., has slowly transformed the center of town into an inviting and welcoming environment.

He was honored recently by the Boston Society of Landscape Architects, which gave him its Community Service Award for providing sustained, pro bono services, and demonstrating the sound principles and values of landscape architecture.

“Nick has changed the attitude of the town toward its public spaces, natural features and community gathering places,” Select Board member Denise Banister wrote in materials supporting Dines’ nomination for the award. “His mission has been to improve his town and to create a new awareness of our environment, our history, our community and the existing and potential beauty of our town for generations to come.”

The work impressed his peers as well as his neighbors.

“The ultimate goal of Nick’s volunteer work is to create beautiful, well-built spaces that bring people together and create a stronger sense of community in nature,” Kathleen Ogden, president of the Boston Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects said.

For his part, Dines is modest, saying he could not have done the work without help from dedicated volunteers and financial support from local businesses.

“There are about 15 volunteers who work in two groups, the Dead Head Society that takes care of the plants and the Redemption Group that collects bottles and cans at the dump to help with funding,” Dines said.

He added that Florence Savings Bank, Cichy’s Garage, the Williamsburg Market and the Williamsburg General Store have all have made contributions to the cause.

And, Dines said Gary Warner, owner of the Goshen Stone Co., “donated roughly 80 tons of stone that we used in many places.”

Dines, a retired professor of landscape design at UMass Amherst, said his long-term goal is to have his work in Williamsburg become an essential part the town’s landscape.

“It is a very ephemeral and temporary kind of thing,” Dines said of the public gardens. “That is why it is important to create a group of people who can take this on into the future.”

Call to action

In 1999, the American Society of Landscape Architects encouraged its members to provide planning and design services to their communities and to promote the health, safety and welfare of citizens by creating and sustaining public parks and offering better access to local landscape resources.

It was then that Dines set about his first project, creating a pedestrian plaza garden at the Florence Savings Bank and the Williamsburg Market along Route 9.

As he was working on that effort, Dines learned the state planned to reconstruct Route 9 in order increase the traffic flow at the bend in the road where Florence Savings Bank, Meekins Library and Brewmaster’s Tavern are located. Dines took it upon himself to submit an alternative plan to town officials that included traffic-calming features, pedestrian crosswalks, a wide shoulder for bicyclists, street trees, shrubs and benches. The plan was accepted and Dines’ work can be seen there today.

What is known as the “Walk of Flowers” along Route 9 between the Williamsburg General Store and the Brewmaster’s Tavern was Dines’ second project, one that he affectionately calls “Williamsburg’s answer to the bridge of flowers in Shelburne Falls.”

Later, he went on to create the Veteran’s Memorial on Route 9, and Angel Park located behind the Williamsburg Grange and the Historical Society buildings.

Angel Park was designed as a quiet area for reflection and a place to remember loved ones who have been lost. Autumn-flowering cherry trees, river birch, white fir, inkberry evergreens and crab apple trees surround terraced flower beds, benches and a small green in the center of the park.

Walking around the park on a blustery day in late November, the passion and commitment that Dines brings to his work was evident.

While giving a quick tutorial about the native shrubs and trees that were planted in the park, he also talked about the history of the site and the importance of connectivity and pedestrian access.

“This used to be an old town garage. We actually found one of the old cornerstones and had it engraved to say Teachers Coffee Walk,” Dines said of the stone now in place on the path connecting the park to the school.

Pedestrians walking on the sidewalk of Route 9 can also get to the park via a path that runs between the Grange and the Historical Society.

As well as being a reflection garden, Angel Park is now the site of free Thursday evening concerts during the summer.

These days, Dines is working on the Mill River Initiative, a project he cofounded in 2009 with John Sinton with a goal of preserving the cultural and natural heritage of the region. Projects will address a number of key issues in the watershed, including resurrecting a branch of the river in Northampton, building a cantilevered walkway from Haydenville to Williamsburg and creating a interpretive trail that focuses on the Great Flood of 1874.

“Doing this has been a wonderful experience, one that involved a lot of good will and support from the people who visit and live in town,” Dines said.

Legacy Comments1

In my opinion landscapers are the most beautiful persons by heart and mind and hence they get such pure and beautiful ideas regarding garden decorations and cleaning. The creativity and innovative minds of such landscapers must be encouraged by awarding and honoring them. Congratulations Nicholas Dines.... and thanks for the beautiful parks... http://goo.gl/R1zpPe

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