NEWBURYPORT — Trent Lloyd loves circles. So when the landscape architect began brainstorming on uses for the open space adjacent to YWCA Greater Newburyport while bringing her children to swimming lessons there, she hoped a design featuring circles would someday come to fruition.
That day came this summer when Lloyd's labyrinth design was installed on the site, adding a new public open space to serve the city's residents.
Lloyd donated her services to the project, a reflection of her interest in the community and in devising spaces that make the city more enjoyable.
The Birmingham, Ala., native moved to Newburyport in 2004 with her husband, Stratton, and began their family, which includes three daughters, ages 6, 4 and 1. She and her husband, originally from Brookline, decided to root their life here, and especially love that Newburyport is a "walking town."
"Part of what we believe in is community and Newburyport is just that," she said, citing the city's friendly and diverse population of families and elderly across the economic spectrum. "For us, we wanted that community feel and Newburyport definitely has that."
The two met in Birmingham where they were both working in community service-oriented jobs. She was a community organizer, assisting neighborhood groups in grant writing, business planning and social programming, and he started First Look Inc., an organization that promoted volunteering and youth involvement in the community. He is now a vice president at EBSCO Publishing in Ipswich.
Her interest in circles stems from a time when she traveled to Rome and spent three hours by herself at the Pantheon, the famed circular temple. The all-encompassing circle brings people together and makes everyone feel included, she said.
"The public space to me is what creates the community, the nucleus, the heart," she said. "My goal is to create a sense of belonging for those who use the space, a sense of ownership in the space. It'll relax you, or you'll see your kids playing on it. You'll say, 'I participated in something on this site,' and you own it."
Lloyd initially presented three design ideas to the YWCA's exterior landscape committee soon after the building's major renovation project in 2008. This spring, an anonymous donor who was particularly fond of the labyrinth design, stepped forward to fund the project, and ground was broken in June, with Visionary Landscapes executing the project. Aside from the placement of benches and a plaque explaining the site, the space is complete and available for public use.
The area is a place for children to play and adults to rest or wait. It's also a spot for fundraisers, classes and other events, John Feehan, executive director of the YWCA, said.
"Trent was able to help people (of the committee) think through the uses of the space. She put together all these beautiful plans. She took all this time listening to us," Feehan said.
"The donor has asked to remain anonymous but lives in the community and loves the work the YWCA does and wanted to tie our whole campus together," he added.
The YWCA's labyrinth is 35 feet in diameter. A labyrinth is different than a maze, although people often use the words interchangeably. A labyrinth is unicursal, meaning it has only one path to the center and back, while a maze is multicursal with many directional choices.
Amy Fleischer, who has walked labyrinths all over the world, shares a Pleasant Street office with Lloyd and has helped her with various creative aspects of the project.
She said Lloyd is a grounded and thoughtful person who chose to give back to the community in a very rooted way by creating a permanent hardscape.
"It takes 10 minutes to walk a labyrinth and it offers a mental shift or a reset button" for the person walking it, Fleischer said.
Beside the labyrinth is a smaller circle, where a semicircle bench will be installed, and another small sitting area, allowing for separate activities to go on simultaneously. The area is filled with trees and shrubbery and many recycled materials. The granite pavers were reclaimed from a fountain at the Boston Commons, the brick was salvaged from the front entrance of the Institution for Savings in Newburyport and the fieldstone was saved from a construction site in western Massachusetts.
Lloyd's interest in understanding people and communities led her to earn an undergraduate degree in anthropology from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., and later a master's degree in landscape architecture from the University of Washington.
While Lloyd continues to grow her residential landscape business, Trent Lloyd Design, she said working to better her community is important to her.
"This is my passion. I do try to volunteer in this capacity," she said. "That's my skill and that's where I can donate my value."
For more information on Trent Lloyd's landscape business, visit www.trentlloyddesign.com.
Did you know?
There's another labyrinth in Newburyport, at St. Paul's Church. The brick labyrinth is open to the public. Use the Summer Street entrance.