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Mayfield park rededicated in honor of the lives lost from the December tornado

Lily Burris
Former Mayfield mayor Teresa Cantrell spoke at the rededication of Anderson Park in downtown Mayfield about how the park came to be and what it meant to her for it to be repaired.

Mayfield community members gathered in the town’s downtown Thursday to celebrate the rededication of a local park that was damaged in the path of the December tornado outbreak five months ago.

Anderson Park, located on Sixth Street, was created in honor of the Anderson family, one of the city’s founding families. The central visual focus of the park is three columns with information about the city’s history. One column suffered damage from the EF-4 tornado that hit the heart of the town and has since been repaired.

Former Mayfield Mayor Teresa Cantrell spoke at the ceremony. During Cantrell’s time as mayor, she worked to incorporate more “pocket parks” and small green spaces in the city, including Anderson Park.

“Originally, this site right here was not on my list, but as the property’s fate changed it became an opportunity to not only create a park but to also commemorate the history of the Anderson family and their part in Mayfield’s beginnings,” Cantrell said.

She also spoke of her experiences in learning about the history of the Anderson family and her interactions with some of its members. Cantrell said she felt emotional thinking about Anderson Park’s potential future in the aftermath of the storms.

“One of those areas that brought a new round of tears was right here, this sweet little park,” Cantrell said. “Like everything else, it looked like a horrible crime scene right after the tornado and my thoughts at that time were that it would be a very low priority on the list of things to rebuild with all the other needs that were in our town.”

The rebuilding of the park was supported by Gilbert LLP, a law firm from Washington D.C. They contacted Michigan-based nonprofit DRAW, or Disaster Relief at Work, about doing a project to help the city recover. DRAW Executive Director Greg Martin presented the law firm with the plan to rebuild the park after speaking with current Mayfield Mayor Kathy O’Nan.

Martin worked with members of DRAW and the Mayfield Graves County Laurel Oak Garden Club to create a plan. Members of the garden club requested that 23 cherry trees be planted for the 23 lives lost in Mayfield during the storm. A fountain was also added to the park.

“From my end, it's been a privilege to meet all the people here in Mayfield, to work with you all and to see this project be one of many that are going to come to fruition in the coming months, as Mayfield comes back stronger, even stronger than maybe it was before,” Martin said.

Craig Litherland, CEO of Gilbert LLP, said when everyone heard about the storm, they wanted to do something to help – a phenomenon he described as “a great thing about Americans.” Through DRAW and O’Nan, Litherland said his group found their answer to how they could help.

“When someone first suggested that the help we could provide was to rebuild the park, I was going, ‘Huh? That isn’t the thing I would have thought of first,’” Litherland said. “But there was an explanation that the kind of symbol that it would be, and the fact that other people were willing to support that was [what] kind of ratified that.”

The park now features the 23 cherry trees in memory of those who were lost to the storm, the original three columns and sculptures, a new fountain and benches.

Lily Burris is a tornado recovery reporter for WKMS, Murray State's NPR Station. Her nine month reporting project is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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