“Welcome to the coronavirus workday!” Teri Kostiw called out cheerfully as I arrived to photograph the Crozet Trails Crew work party as it built the new McCartney Amphitheater at Mint Springs Park on March 14. The stage was built and 52 postholes for the bench supports were dug that first day. Volunteers were able to use a posthole digger for some bench supports, but others had to be hand-dug due to their proximity to a sewer line. Three additional midweek workdays were required to finish the job—just in time for the widespread “stay at home” orders. Social distancing was carefully maintained, and a copious amount of hand sanitizer was employed during the building process. The area had been previously cleared by CTC volunteers on February 8, but the building project itself had to wait for a building permit.
“I had always wanted a small gathering area at Mint Springs for talks, presentations, and/or musical events,” Dan Mahon explained when asked about the origin of the stage. “When Sir Paul performed at JPJ in 2016, I heard that he accepts grant proposals from towns he visits, so I applied and got the grant.” Brokered with managers of the John Paul Jones Arena (JPJ), the Albemarle County Dept. of Parks and Recreation was awarded $2,000 to build a performance space in Mint Springs Park. The funds were used to purchase materials, such as concrete support piers for the stage, treated wood, metal braces, and cement for securing the bench supports. Mahon asked the Crozet Trails Crew to build the project, and they jumped at the chance. Both the design and building of the amphitheater were done with all-volunteer labor—totaling 144 hours.
David Miyamoto designed the 8’ x 8’ square stage and 14 benches, each supported by 4 posts grounded in cement. The benches are 8’ long and 18” high, sitting on a natural slope that provides gently graded, stadium-like seating. “The benches should accommodate an audience of about 70, depending on the age and size of the people attending,” he explained. There is also a hill behind the benches where an overflow crowd could sit on blankets to watch or listen to the performance or presentation.
“We plan to call it the Sir Paul McCartney Amphitheater,” Mahon declared. “It is in a quiet, protected area, close to the parking lot, with a graded trail that makes it wheelchair accessible.” Mahon would eventually like to add a screen for outdoor projection, but this is a long way off. There is currently no nearby electrical access. Generally, the park closes after dark (at 7 p.m. in summer).
“We built the amphitheater just before everyone was asked to shelter in place,” said Terri Miyamoto, president of the Crozet Trails Crew. “In fact, the last couple days we worked on it we had only about four people at a time so we wouldn’t be a large group. I think of it just sitting there now, waiting for the time when we can all be together again. And I just can’t wait for the day when we can come here with our Crozet neighbors to celebrate our community.”