‘It’s Finally Happening’: Long-Planned Restoration, Completion of World War II ‘Gold Star Walk’ Underway at Mead Park

A nearly 10-year effort to revitalize a World War II memorial path in Mead Park, spearheaded by a longtime New Canaan resident, finally has an end in sight, as repair of an existing footbridge and construction of a second one recently commenced. Originally installed in 1945 at the end of World War II by a local gardening club, the “Gold Star Walk” at Mead had included 38 flowering trees honoring each of the New Canaan men who lost their lives in service (see list at end of article). Each tree had been fitted with a plaque bearing the name of the deceased. Yet the trees and the walk have fallen into disrepair, with the plaques missing and many of the trees no longer flowering—a situation that New Canaanite and Korean War vet Jim Bach found unacceptable. He has raised funds to complete the Gold Star Walk and has tapped local landscape architect Keith Simpson for the critical bridge work.

PHOTOS: New Canaanites Who Died While Serving in World War II

Since creating a memorial walk dedicated to New Canaanites who perished during World War II in 2003 in Mead Park, town resident Jim Bach, a Korean War veteran, has spearheaded efforts to improve the visibility and appearance of this town landmark. Those efforts have included re-planting of trees along the “Gold Star Walk,” creating a second footbridge to extend it and installing a new walkway and map—and a venerable nonprofit organization now is offering to help Bach preserve the memorial, which features a plaque listing names of the 38 men who died during the war (see gallery above for information on the servicemen). The memorial has stood for more than 10 years, and Bach—a 1947 New Canaan High School graduate who served as a U.S. Army sergeant from 1952 to 1954—said he wants to add some finishing touches, to ensure its longevity. “I want to see it done, it was part of my life a long time ago and it kept me out of trouble at one time,” Bach said. “The final thing that I wanted to get done with the memorial is to put in a bridge across the main stream that enters the park, on the west side of the garage.

Officials Support Proposed ‘Twin Bridges’ Design for WWII Memorial Walk at Mead Park

When funds are in hand to repair a failing footbridge at Mead Park—whether that money comes from the town or is raised privately—the structure itself should mirror a proposed new footbridge, so that together they help form a cohesive World War II memorial walk there, parks officials say. The “Gold Star Walk”—a footpath along the northern and eastern edges of Mead Pond that’s dedicated to the 38 New Canaan men who died during Second World War—requires two bridges to traverse the underground streams that supply the pond’s water. Though its foundation is secure, the decking and handrails on one of those bridges, already in place, are in dire need of replacement—an approximately $15,000 to $17,000 job. A private group led by  1947 New Canaan High School graduate Jim Bach has secured nearly all of the $37,000 needed to build the second footbridge, but the two structures aesthetically must look exactly alike, according to local landscape architect Keith Simpson, who is helping him. “What I am afraid of is that we will get the funds to do this [new bridge] and it will look really good, and then this [existing bridge] will be band-aided by the town with a way that goes about doing things ‘financially’ and the two bridges will actually never look alike,” Simpson told members of the Park & Recreation Commission during their regular meeting Wednesday.

‘We Would Have To Know That You Have the Money’: Parks Officials Stop Short of Supporting Plan To Finish WWII Memorial Walk at Mead Park

Though they conceded that a footbridge in Mead Park is structurally unsound and that a proposal to finish and maintain an area memorializing New Canaan’s World War II vets is nice, parks officials say greater detail is needed in order to support the plan more than conceptually. Private funds would be used to build an estimated $37,000, second bridge over the main in-flow to Mead Pond at one end of the “Gold Star Walk,” as well as to ensure that trees dedicated to New Canaanites who perished during WWII are healthy. Yet the Park & Recreation Commission needs a detailed cost estimate and assurances that private monies are in place to repair an existing footbridge, according to Sally Campbell, the group’s chairman. “We cannot approve anything unless we really see a firm plan,” Campbell told local landscape architect Keith Simpson during the commission’s Feb. 10 meeting, held in the Douglas Room at Lapham Community Center.

Keeping Up the ‘Gold Star Walk’: Citizen-Led Campaign for Little-Known World War II Memorial Path at Mead Park

Standing at what is perhaps the least-traversed edge of Mead Pond on a recent morning, town native Jim Bach, a 1947 New Canaan High School graduate who served as a U.S. Army sergeant from 1952 to 1954, picks lichen from the branch of an apple tree whose trunk is twisted in prickly weeds. “I don’t know what this stuff is, and you see how the vines have grown up?” Bach said on this cool, clear December day. “That shouldn’t be. That is the lack of maintenance, and a lot of those lower branches should be taken off and also, you know, it has gotten spindly too. That’s the attention that these types of trees need.”

Dedicated at the close of World War II to the 38 New Canaan men who lost their lives while serving during the war, the area dubbed “Gold Star Walk” starts just inside the gate at Mead Park’s entrance and runs along the eastern and northern edges of the pond.