Deeper Dive Planned Into Forest Park Master Plan
An ambitious plan unveiled last spring for renovating and updating one of the oldest urban parks in western Massachusetts is moving forward.
Springfield city officials have announced the creation of nine committees to review in detail the various parts of a master plan for restoring and improving a section of Forest Park that dates back to the late 1800s.
At the centerpiece of the plan is the creation of the Forest Park Horticulture and Learning Center. It would feature a conservatory-style greenhouse with exotic plants of all sizes and varieties, seating areas, and space for lectures and events. Several types of gardens would surround the greenhouse, which would look out over an oval-shaped lawn.
In addition to studying the feasibility of the planned improvements, the committees will also come up with cost estimates.
" It is every exciting, it is very ambitious," said Mayor Domenic Sarno of the master plan. " There's a lot of ambitious programs and projects that we pulled off that people thought we would never pull off."
Sarno said the horticulture center could host annual flower shows that would attract more visitors to enjoy the 735-acre park.
"Parks are near and dear to my heart," said Sarno.
The committees, made up of volunteers, will report their findings to Sarno’s Chief of Staff Tom Ashe and the city’s parks director Patrick Sullivan.
Along with the new horticulture center, the plan proposes renovations to the former Forest Park Zoo Monkey House and construction of a new building to house an authentic wooden carousel.
"We looked at a lot of the old postcard photographs of what the park looked like in the 1900s, and at the mayor's direction we put a plan in place," said Sullivan.
He said the city has already started looking for sources of potential funding for the project such as the state’s environmental bond bill.
"I think we will get this plan done." said Sullivan.
The Springfield Park Commission voted in April to endorse the master plan. Commission Chairman Brian Santaniello said its time to make a serious investment to restore the upper section of Forest Park to its former splendor.
"The park really needs a facelift," said Santaniello.
The committees’ final reports are expected in about six months.