A quarter-century ago, Hartford's historic Bushnell Park was
a worn walk-through. There were no benches, the lighting was
bad and the pond didn't hold water. Two Courant reporters were
among the many people mugged during the daytime.
As the crowds and events today attest, the park has changed
dramatically for the better. Much of the credit goes to Sandy
As planning director of the Downtown Council in 1981, Mr.
Parisky and a band of good citizens set up the Bushnell Park
Foundation to rejuvenate the park. He became its managing director.
He and the foundation went about their work methodically.
They raised funds, commissioned a restoration master plan and
then followed it. They restored the Hoadley Entrance, rebuilt
the serpentine pond, restored the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial
Arch, created the Pump House Gallery, built the band shell,
installed underground sprinklers, reconnected paths, built
the playground and planted more than 450 trees. They also protected
the park from ill-advised street plans that would have taken
some of its land away.
As the work proceeded, the great park - the first municipal
park in the country designed, built and paid for by a vote
of its citizens - came back to life, with events ranging from
music and marathons to vintage baseball and tree tours. People
returned - to enjoy the grass and sun, throw a Frisbee or sit
on a bench and enjoy a jerk chicken sandwich.
One of the keys to Mr. Parisky's
success was his insistence on quality materials: Connecticut
brownstone for the Hoadley Entrance and top-notch park benches.
When one city official saw the benches he said, "That's too good for Hartford." Mr.
Parisky thought otherwise, and he was right.
With much of the major strategic work done - though the important
re-creation of the scenic overlook on the north side of the
Capitol is still in the pipeline - Mr. Parisky and his consulting
group no longer will work with the Bushnell Park Foundation.
He has taken on a new challenge, working with a group restoring
the Olmsted-designed Pope Park.
Hartford's Bushnell and other parks are the city's glory.
Thanks to Sandy Parisky and others, new generations of visitors
now get to enjoy them.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at