Improvements Coming To Neighborhood Park
A $ 1 million improvement plan has been unveiled for an urban park in western Massachusetts.
Walsh Park is 12 acres of fields and woods tucked between residential streets in Springfield’s Liberty Heights section. Come the summer of 2021, the park will have two playgrounds, a splash pad, baseball diamond, a walking path, and picnic area.
"We are very very excited about this project and can't wait for the day in the near future when we see shovels in the ground," said Pete Krupczak, Springfield's assistant parks director.
Plans also include a pollinator meadow to address the decline in bee and butterfly populations.
Two new entrances to the park will be created according to Laura Walsh, projects manager for the city’s parks department.
" There will be new entrances, one on Freeman Street and one on Van Buren (Ave.), so that people from both sides of the neighborhood can come in and recreate," said Walsh.
Once a popular recreation spot, Walsh Park, known by many as Freeman Park, suffered from neglect and was almost unusable a dozen years ago, according to City Councilor Mike Fenton.
"The park was in pretty bad shape, there were some sinkholes and mounds of dirt," said Fenotn. "It was not a place you would come to safely recreate."
Plans were drawn up several years ago to redevelop Walsh Park, but the money for the project became available only recently, according to Mayor Domenic Sarno.
" Finally, after years of going after grants it has come to fruition," said Sarno.
Funding for the project comes from a $550,000 grant from the U.S. National Park Service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund, a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development with the city putting in $300,000.
Democratic Congressman Richard Neal, in a prepared statement, said the federal funding for the park project is “great news for the City of Springfield.”
Over the last dozen years or so, the city has spent about $30 million on park improvements, according to Sarno.
"Growing up, parks were my Riviera," said Sarno. "Green space is very very important for all our people."
Just last month, a major project costing $2.5 million to replace a collapsed culvert in Forest Park was completed. Last summer, a $3 million renovation to Riverfront Park was wrapped up.