Mary Ann Lancey Manson Park is a jewel of an in-town park, located adjacent to Pittsfield's central business
district. The park contains land on both sides of the Sebasticook River just south of
the industrialized zone. Most of the park was donated to the Town by John W. Manson, a
prestigious Pittsfield lawyer and businessman, and named for his mother, a member of the
prominent family who ran the distinguished Lancey House Hotel.
The park was
donated in two sections, the first and largest portion in 1926 during Mr. Manson's
lifetime, including the accessway extending from the end of Crosby Street,
second upon his death in 1941 as a bequest in his will. The will also provided for a
trust to fund the maintenance of the park, which Mr. Manson suggested be supervised by a
5-member committee of the Town. The Parks and Recreation Committee was established to
carry out that purpose by directing the use of the maintenance monies. Acquisition of
adjoining land to be added to the park is among the allowed uses of these
The wishes of the donor as stated in his
will were: "I desire it to be improved, beautified and, if necessary, enlarged, to
be used somewhat, not principally, as a sport field to which the students of Maine
Central Institute shall be welcome; to be used especially as a garden, walk, and
playground for all the people who desire to use it...I believe the town should improve
the river flowing along said park by carrying the sewage below where it now enters to
swifter water, and should clear the river of rocks and obstacles to make a good
The construction of the park commenced
in 1946 and it was opened officially in 1948-49. The local newspaper reported that 282
young people participated in the first organized program held at the facility; since
that time, the park has continued to provide a positive focal point for family
activities in Pittsfield. An additional four-acre section was donated to the park in
1973 by Mr. and Mrs. Ronello Brown, the same year a memorial was dedicated to J.W.
Manson. In 1983, the Town received a 17-acre addition to the park via a gift of Lancey
G. Milliken. This land is on the east side of the Sebasticook River, extending to the
Central Maine Railroad line (it contains an easement reserved for the Central Maine
Power transmission line). The land is primarily wetland, and has not as yet been put to
purposeful use. Townspeople are certainly grateful for the generous donations of these
Many improvements have been made to the
park since it was first opened, paid for by a combination of trust funds and private
donations. The park area now consists of approximately 45 acres, 18 of which are
undeveloped and located between the Sebasticook River and Detroit Ave. The area more
commonly recognized as Manson Park lies on the southwest edge of the river. It is mostly
open, with some tall,
attractive trees on the southern end along Peltoma Ave. This area serves as headquarters for
the Central Maine Egg Festival and Kiwanis Karnival, held as an annual joint event during the
fourth week of July. In order to serve the festival and carnival, the carnival area was
improved with power and water connections paid for equally by the Kiwanis Club and the Egg
Festival Committee. In the balance of the warm weather months, this carnival area is used as a
soccer practice area for the MCI and Warsaw School teams. The K-7 Soccer program uses this
area as well. It is also occasionally rented for large company picnics.
Manson Park now boasts three softball
diamonds with bleachers, three tennis courts, a basketball court, horseshoe pit, a
picnic area with fireplaces and tables, playground, good access roads, parking
facilities, and benches. The park is largely maintained as a well-groomed lawn.
The park is unquestionably both attractive and functional, offering a wide variety of
active and passive recreational activities in pleasant surroundings. One special garden
is maintained: During the 1980's, a group of grateful citizens planted a perennial
garden accompanied by a granite bench within the turnaround in the middle of the park to
honor Kerry Martin, an avid teacher and community volunteer.
The Manson Park School playground was
renovated in 1993-94 by a volunteer committee supported by local businesses. The new
playground surface is a sand base covered with wood chips. Swing structures and a
merry-go-round from the previous playground were reset in the ground. The playground
added new swings, 2 slides, a clock, tunnel, tic-tac-toe, bench, moon walker, physical
education structure, and basketball backboard placed for Pre-kindergarten to 2nd graders
to reach. Funds above and beyond the construction costs were donated to the school to
establish a continuing playground maintenance fund.
The most used section of Manson Park
is the swimming pool complex adjacent to Lancey
Street, although the pool is not technically considered part of the park. The
least-used section is the undeveloped portion of the park on the northeast side of the
river, accessible via a snowmobile bridge from the southwestern section of the park.
There is interest in exploring the construction of a nature interpretation area there.
As the site is largely a forested needle-leaved evergreen wetland, this would have to be
carefully planned and executed by knowledgeable people and require environmental
permits. A related interest involves increasing use of the public access to the
Sebasticook River from Manson Park for initiating canoe trips to the Burnham
Below are two 1972 photos of Manson Park taken from Bud's parking lot (which, in 2005 was known as the
Edwards Systems or GE Security Systems parking lot) on Hunnewell Ave. Click on photo to enlarge.