• Watching over Hubbard Park: Beyer steps down as caretaker after 32 years
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     | April 17,2013
     
    Stefan Hard / Staff Photo

    Geoff Beyer stands next to a cherry tree outside the caretaker’s residence in Montpelier’s Hubbard Park. Beyer is retiring as caretaker after 32 years, though he’ll remain parks director and tree warden for the city.

    MONTPELIER — He is the Capital City’s Green Man, and like the mythic deity from the British Isles Geoff Beyer is a lover of plants and trees — equal parts trailblazer, historian, educator, and guardian of all things covered with foliage. In Beyer’s case his kingdom is Hubbard Park, and after 32 years he is leaving his home in the woods.

    But he’s not going to go too far.

    “I’m still going to be the director of parks, and the tree warden,” he says of the other two hats he wears for the city. “But I’ve been working on a house in East Montpelier and it will be something to finally move in. I’m excited, I think it’s my family that is finding it more challenging to leave.”

    Hubbard Park has grown and improved since 1899 when it was left as a 125 acre bequest to the city by John Hubbard. Several land parcels have been added over the years and the park is now 185 acres with seven miles of skiing and hiking trails running through it. Among its most signficiant features is the 54-foot stone tower built in 1913, but the park is also home to baseball and soccer fields, and a small pond.

    Beyer, the first resident caretaker, met his wife Kim after he’d already moved to the park, and together they raised three daughters, Marcianna, Celeste and Dana in the caretaker’s home. “My two youngest daughters were both born in the living room,” he says. “And it has been great for them all to grow up here.”

    The Goddard College graduate has been the park’s sole resident caretaker, and as such he’s drawn on a myriad of skills, not the least of which is his ability to get along with the public — and sometimes their dogs. He has fostered partnerships with the schools, created a program to bring international workers to spend time working in the park in the summer, and is well on his way to seeing a new generation of Montpelier youth discover the local wilderness.

    “It was important to connect with the school groups,” he says of some of the outreach he’s done in the community. “To get those fourth-graders in here so that they can establish a relationship with the park now so they’ll take care of it when they get older.”

    Today, many Montpelier residents volunteer, and in summer it’s sometimes hard to reserve space and time at the park’s barbecue area. That privilege is granted to city residents at no charge, although outlying residents are welcome to reserve a picnic spot as well for a relatively low fee. The setting is universally popular for gatherings like birthday parties and family reunions, but it wasn’t always so.

    “When I first came to the park it was really in disrepair,” he says. The biggest spurt of growth occurred in the first 10 years of his service, he adds. During that time trails were repaired and constructed, and word spread through the city that the park was a great place to go.

    Today there is no season that doesn’t find the park in use, with intrepid visitors doing everything from skiing to searching for prized chanterelle mushrooms after a spring rain.

    “Community interest has been a great boon to the park,” he says. “We couldn’t do what we do without the community.”

    On Tuesday he’d just finished a tree pruning workshop with 15 residents who learned the ins and outs of pinching and cutting, all to improve the health and vitality of their shrubs and trees. He speaks with enthusiasm of the search for his replacement.

    “We’ve gotten 20 applications so far,” he said. “And most are local, but today we got an application from Scotland and that’s exciting. Scotland is a long way to come from.”

    The opportunity to apply for the job will close on Friday when members of the city’s parks committee will start reviewing the applications. The two finalists will be interviewed by the committee and the city manager before a decision is made.

    Along with a salary of between $15 and $18 per hour, the new caretaker will be able to move into the house for a rent of $1,100 a month. Beyer added that it’s possible the house could be renovated into two apartments, one of which could be for the caretaker, and the other for one or more of the city’s AmeriCorps volunteers. “It could have two apartments and the caretaker could decide which one to live in.”

    Beyer is hopeful that his replacement will be on board by early July. All the better to give him time to explore his new environs in East Montpelier.

    “We’re right near the border with seven acres,” he says in anticipation. “And we’re only two hundred feet from being able to get onto a trail.”

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