The picnic area about halfway up Hopedale Pond shown above, used to be called the second fireplace. Then in the sixties, another picnic spot was put in between the first and this one, so now what? If this is now the third fireplace, the former third fireplace will have to be renamed also. I think I’ll start calling this one the mid-point fireplace because it’s about halfway between the dam and the Rustic Bridge. What used to be called the third fireplace was also known as Maroney’s Grove. There is evidence that the area was used as a picnic grove even before the Parklands were established. The stone shelter in the photo below was built in 1923.

Above – The shelter/fireplace in the Parkands near the Driftway as it looked years ago.

Below – The shelter/fireplace shown in photo taken in December 2023. In 2016, the Park Commission had the concrete blocks put into the fireplace until damage to the roof can be repaired.

   A Walk Through the Parklands 
Mid-point Fireplace to Maroney’s Grove

As you approach the mid-point fireplace, some Cutler Street houses come into view on the right. There are two picnic tables in the area, about 100 feet apart. One is badly damaged but the other is okay.  The original concrete benches have been replaced with wood. From the waters edge here, you can look across to Fisherman’s  Island, where there is a stone shelter/fireplace. It was built in 1923.

A little past the picnic area you’ll come to an “intersection.” The road to the left goes to the Rustic Bridge. The road to the right soon makes a left turn. You’ll also see a path that heads more-or-less to the north. The path will bring you to the open side of the Fourth Fireplace and the road goes past the back side. If you continue along the road, you’ll come to Hazel Street which leads up to Route 140 at what used to be Dorieann’s Gift Shop.

Maroney’s Grove was once a popular spot for family picnics, and I’ve even heard of people having anniversary parties there. The picnic area was built in 1901, and the fireplace in 1923. [My parents anniversary was the same as my aunt and uncle’s – August 1. Every year we’d celebrate with a picnic in the Parklands. There would be about seven or eight adults and a dozen or so children. My father would pick different places for the picnic. I remember one being at Moroney’s Grove, and one year my father borrowed a rowboat and we had our celebration at Fisherman’s Island. Muriel (Henry) Tinkham, 2006] Click here for Muriel’s story of growing up on a farm on Dutcher Street at the edge of the Parklands.

From time to time trees have been planted in the Parklands. The Park Department history on their website mentions the planting of 12,000 red and white pines, (1916 – to replace American chestnuts lost to the blight)), 1,500 Scotch pines, (1923), 500 pine and spruce, (1953), and 1,000 spruce, (1954). The area still has a good deal of white pine, as can be found in much of the rest of New England, but little evidence of the others. It seems that no matter what you plant, what grows here naturally is what survives. You can still find American chestnut here and there, but they seldom get to more than twenty feet when they’re killed by the blight.

I’ve heard more than one person ask if the Parkland fireplaces were Depression-era projects – CCC or WPA, maybe. No, no, no — not a chance. Anything the Drapers didn’t want to happen in Hopedale, didn’t happen. The Republican Drapers didn’t want anything to do with any New Deal projects.

It seems that whenever Maroney’s Grove (sometimes spelled Moroney’s, as it is in the newspaper clippings below) is mentioned, someone will say, “Do you know about the spring?”  That seems to have been a popular attraction there. I know of a couple of nearby possibilities, but I’ve never been sure that I’ve found it. Extending from the area in front of the fireplace, going roughly toward the pond, there’s a path. It crosses a brook (The spring??? Looks to me like it just comes out of a small swamp; not my idea of the pristine spring I’ve heard about.) and continues on for quite a distance. As you follow it, you can get a glimpse of the river (upstream from the Rustic Bridge, It is no longer a pond and it’s probably even an exaggeration to call it a river) from time to time. Eventually you’ll come out behind some of the businesses well up on Route 140. While the path continues for quite a distance, not far from Maroney’s Grove, the Parklands territory ends and private property begins.

The fork in the road near the Rustic Bridge. To the left, the bridge. To the right, Maroney’s Grove/Fourth Fireplace and the end of the road at Hazel Street.

Picnics such as this were enjoyed frequently in the Parklands years ago.

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