Byron Memorial Park project complete

Bonnie Bates and AJ Dickson check out the new Marathon Oil exhibit at the Byron Memorial Park recently. The park, which honors Byron’s history and military veterans, is now complete for all to enjoy. Bob Rodriguez photo
Bonnie Bates and AJ Dickson check out the new Marathon Oil exhibit at the Byron Memorial Park recently. The park, which honors Byron’s history and military veterans, is now complete for all to enjoy.
Bob Rodriguez photo

It has taken 14 years of dedicated efforts by many individuals and families, but the new and improved Byron Memorial Park at the east entrance to the Town of Byron is complete as of a few weeks ago.

As Mayor Pam Hopkinson has observed, “What a wonderful entrance to our community and a tribute to those who sacrificed to come here to settle, stay and build a place to call home.”

She noted that the purpose of the park from the beginning has been to honor the pioneers who came to the Basin.

“As a memorial park,” she said, “there needed to be recognition of the many from our community who served in the military through the years. Later, some felt that the oil companies, which have been a part of the community for more than 100 years, should also have recognition.”

With that in mind, Marathon Oil Corp. has installed a concrete pad at one corner of the park and placed a replica oil-pumping unit, donated by the Frank Wilkerson Family, plus a miniature derrick.

“They show what we do as an industry in the area,” said Marsha Emonds of Marathon. That display, plus five specially dedicated metal benches, complement the existing granite wall with the chiseled names of military veterans from the community and the existing concrete stepped platform with an impressive statue of Byron Sessions, one of the area’s principal pioneers after whom the town is named. Near the wall of names there is a plaque, which reads, “Dedicated to all Byron veterans who valiantly served our nation in war and peace.”

Besides the Marathon display and benches, the park improvement project includes trees, sweeping expanses of lawn and other landscaping, a sprinkler system and concrete sidewalks. The contractor for the $121,688 project, using a WyDOT grant, was Synergy Construction LLC of Lovell. Each of the green-painted donated benches includes metal wording comprised of the following: “In memory of Thelma Griggs Sprague,” “In memory of Margaret Corbett Wirth,” “In memory of Wesley Clark, Class of 2003,” “Dedicated to Jesse & Lola Winzenried,” and “Byron Lions Club.”

In July 2007, seven years after the town’s centennial, the striking statue of Byron Sessions, designed by artist/sculptor Steve Wirth, who is a great-great-grandson of Sessions, was dedicated. Sessions is holding survey maps, notes, a plaque that includes a photo of Sessions and other pioneers of his era, “as he prepares to oversee the construction of the Sidon Canal.” The plaque includes the history of the canal.

“More than 500 people attended the dedication and all the early pioneer settlers were honored on this day with music and remembrances of early day Byron,” said Jackie Hecht, one of the longtime community members who has worked with many others toward the improvement project.

Hecht provided a wealth of background. She noted that the original committee was named the Byron Centennial Committee and that when that observation was past, “we were asked to continue getting the park under way and completed, so the name was changed to Byron Memorial Park Committee.”

She explained that many original members had to resign at various times because of other obligations. They included J.R. Gonzales, Mary Jensen, Gilbert Cordova and Hollie Jones. Subsequently, R.B. Smith, Rachel George (who later resigned) and Cindy Cordova served, as well as Jesse Winzenried (who died earlier this year).

“He provided valuable help in getting the grant process under way along with expertise in other areas including generous donations,” said Hecht. She also explained that Hopkinson had to resign after being elected mayor and that she was replaced by her husband, Glen.

“Original members still serving (besides herself),” stated Hecht, “are Ray Havig, Janet Haddix and Wirth.” She credited former town clerk/treasurer Vicki Gibson and current clerk/treasurer Donna Booth “for their diligence in accounting for all donations and expenditures and providing us with updates.”

She cited Smith for his great “help with his engineering expertise and ideas. He undertook overseeing and coordinating the final planning and construction.”

Noted Mayor Hopkinson, “During the past 14 years the ground now referred to as Byron Memorial Park has been under construction of sorts. Not always visible, many plans have come and gone. The one constant thing is a Memorial Park board, a group of dedicated individuals who have served at various times to help pull this park together. Several mayors and councils have worked along with the board since the property belongs to the Town of Byron. Many of the Sessions Family (descendants of Byron Sessions, our founder) pooled their own personal resources, as well as donations of others.

“They commissioned Wirth to sculpt the statue that would honor Byron Sessions. Steve donated his time and talent to the cause. The town then was involved in the work of preparing for the installation. It has been a group effort.”

by Bob Rodriguez