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New Springfield Park To Be Named For Slain Marine


   Ground was broken today for a future park in Springfield, Massachusetts that will be named for a slain U.S. Marine.

   The park, which will be for passive recreation including walking and kayaking, is being developed on 12 acres of land next to the south branch of the Mill River in the East Forest Park neighborhood about a mile from the house where Marine Gunnery Sergeant Thomas J. Sullivan grew up.

  Sullivan, 40, was among five servicemen killed on July 15,2015 by a gunman who attacked military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Sullivan died while trying to rescue other Marines.

  City officials, led by Mayor Domenic Sarno said it was an honor to name the park for Sullivan, who he called a hero who never forgot his Springfield roots.

  " He never forgot his roots here in East Forest Park and of Cathedral High School. He was very proud of it," said Sarno. " Today is a beautiful day."

  Joe Sullivan, who spoke on behalf of the family members who attended Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony, said they are humbled by the city’s recognition of his brother’s legacy and sacrifice.

" Tommy would not want any of it. He was too proud to be honored in any way. But he deserves it and we are grateful."

Sullivan recalled how he and his brother used to play along the river at the very spot where the park is being built.

 Dianne Sullivan Caron said her brother would welcome the park as a beautiful peaceful place for young families in the neighborhood to enjoy.

   " My brother would enjoy the park because his nieces and nephews will enjoy the park and the community will have the park. He would be proud of that," she said.

  Since his death, Sullivan has received national and local honors.  He was awarded a posthumous Purple Heart to go with two others he earned while on combat tours in Iraq.   Children at a Springfield elementary school established a scholarship in Sullivan’s name.  A charity road race was held to remember him on September 11th.  A banquet room will be named for him at the restaurant his family owns in Springfield.

The landscape along the south branch of the Mill River was dramatically altered by the 2011 tornado.  The new park will restore the tree canopy and wildflowers will be planted.  The city’s director of parks, Patrick Sullivan, who is not related to the family of the Marine, said there will be walking paths benches, lookouts along the water, a kayak/canoe launch, and a small parking lot.

  "It will be a quiet park where you could come for a picnic and enjoy the beauty of the water and the woods," said Sullivan

The city received a $400,000 grant from the state last year for the project, and is putting in an additional $250,000. 

The park should be open to the public next spring.

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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