A passive park: North Westfield acreage originally donated by Sheila MacGregor Beals, a Scottish war bride


Although Christmas has ended, an evergreen tree in MacGregor Park in northern Westfield dons Christmas ornaments year-round.

Westfield Washington Township Trustee Danielle Carey Tolan doesn’t know who started the tradition, but many people have joined in since it began.

Sheila MacGregor Beals gifted 40 acres and her home to the Westfield Washington Township on the condition the area must remain a passive park.

“When we were donated the (original) 40 acres (of MacGregor Park in 1999), there was this little evergreen there, and they were wanting to cut it down, but they saw a couple ornaments on there and they said, ‘Oh, let’s keep it and see what happens,’” Carey Tolan said.

Township officials still don’t know who first began hanging the ornaments.

“We don’t know who originally started it, though, just some random person out for a walk and put an ornament on there,” said Laura Crum, manager of public outreach for the township.

When the tradition began, the tree was only a few feet tall. As the tree grew, more ornaments were placed on it. Now, the tree is nearly 12 feet tall. During inclement weather, ornaments occasionally fall off or their strings break. Carey Tolan said township staff try to repair them and place them back on the tree.

“They were going to cut (the tree) because it was right on the path they were wanting to lay, but they chose not to because it’s on the backside of the property,” Carey Tolan said. “It’s not right out front. You kind of have to go hunt for it.”

MacGregor Park has several miles of trails, but all park activities are passive. Sheila MacGregor Beals donated the property when she was still alive, on the condition the property remain a passive park.

Sheila MacGregor Beals and her two dogs. The first trail around the perimeter of the park was the trail MacGregor walked with her dogs every day. (Submitted photo)

“She always enjoyed the countryside. She was an animal advocate,” Carey Tolan said. “She would always pick up animals on the side of the road and bring them back and try to heal them. She just loved (the) outdoors. Since they didn’t have any kids. Her biggest thing was this property and making sure it stayed in the most natural state it could.”

MacGregor met Lyndon Beals overseas during World War II, and she came back to America with him as a Scottish war bride. They settled in northern Westfield, in what is now MacGregor Park.

In 1999, the original 40 acres of the park was donated. The first trail, roughly 1-mile long, was the path MacGregor walked with her dogs daily. Now, the park covers nearly 100 acres and has several miles of trails.

“Her wishes were that the park be minimally developed and be used only for passive nature activities, so that’s why the family put in lots of conservation easements on that 40 acres,” Tolan said. “(There are)  things we can and cannot do, which is good. I love that. I love the forethought that they thought that far ahead in protecting something because most people that sell their land or donate their land, they don’t see the value of what the land used to be or would like for it to have.”

The MacGregor House within MacGregor Park. (Photo by Anna Skinner)

Other passive activities in MacGregor Park

Bird watching: MacGregor Park is home to many bird species, including the endangered bay-breasted warbler. The wood thrush, a declining species, also has been seen in the park.

Peace pole: A peace pole was installed in the park in 2014. It reads, “May peace prevail on Earth” in English, Gaelic, Miami Native American, Zulu and Braille.

Geocaching: A nationally known activity called geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity whereby GPS users are directed to hidden containers within the park.


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