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Springfield Spends Heavily On Parks


Close to $10 million in local, state, and federal money has been spent in the last couple of years to construct or renovate parks of all shapes and sizes in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts.  The projects have opened up new recreational opportunities, eliminated blight, and brought parks closer to the people.

Children this summer had a chance to cool off and play on a splash pad in one of Springfield’s newest parks.

Balliet Park is being built in two phases for an estimated cost of $850,000 on a 6.5- acre site that was formerly a school playground.  When the project is finished next year there will be new playground equipment, a new lawn area, tennis courts, a baseball diamond, basketball court, new trees, concrete walks and expanded parking.

Neighborhood resident Michael Connolly said until now the closest park was 2 miles away.

"I'm excited that my kids and the kids in the community have some place within walking distance to get their energy out," he said.

      The park is located in one of the lowest income neighborhoods in the city.  Pine Point Neighborhood Council member Gloria DeFillipo said residents worked with city officials for almost 10 years to plan this park.

" We had no park. This is the first step to revitalizing the neighborhood," she said.

Another new park was dedicated this summer in the densely populated Liberty Heights neighborhood.  The one acre park, dedicated to the late community activist Mary Troy, was built on a vacant lot for $780,000.

The park has 21 new trees, a sensory garden, picnic tables, benches, a water fountain and a series of freestanding play structures and exercise equipment.  

Mayor Domenic Sarno said it is his goal to build more of these so-called “pocket parks” throughout the city.

" Pocket parks and quality of life are important to young families and senior citizens," he said.

City officials and residents of the East Forest Park neighborhood gathered one day last month to celebrate an $850,000 restoration of Nathan Bill Park.   The 18-acre park has been a recreational and athletic centerpiece of the neighborhood for decades, according to Frank Ryan, president of the East Forest Park Civic Association.

" I think as the economy recovers and the housing market comes back, I hope East Forest Park is a place where young families choose to come.  They expect this in a city. They expect to bring their children to a park area, meet the neighbors and enjoy living here," said Ryan.

The $1.8 million restoration of Camp STAR Angelina was completed this summer, as well.  Located in Forest Park – the crown jewel of Springfield’s park system—Camp STAR Angelina features recreational programs for children and young adults with disabilities. 

The camp has a new fully accessible swimming pool, bathhouse and adjacent amphitheater.

The bulk of the Springfield projects were funded by a state grant program with the acronym PARC (Parkland Acquisition and Renovations).

Patrick Sullivan, Springfield’s director of parks and recreation, said the city has had great success securing grants from that program because the city has made park projects a priority.

" We are very passionate. We care about what we are going. We engage the community in what we are doing. We don't leave anyone out of the process and that is what makes us successful," said Sullivan.

The city has applied for a $400,000 state grant to make improvements to South Branch Park, including a launch area to put kayaks on Lake Massasoit.

Another project the city has announced plans for is to create soccer fields next to an elementary school that would be named for Michael Schiavina and Alain Beauregard, two Springfield police officers who were shot dead in 1985.          

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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