State and city officials cut a ribbon to celebrate the nearly-completed facelift of Pittsfield’s First Street Common.
Four years in the making, the $4.8 million renovation features a new playground, amphitheatre gazebo and spray park. State and city officials cut a Christmas-style ribbon on the steps of the new amphitheatre equipped with the necessary hook-ups for an outdoor show. Dr. John Herman chairs Pittsfield’s Parks Commission.
“We’ve already got people lined up asking to use this facility for the summer,” Herman said. “We hope the line gets longer because we’ve got a lot of daylight hours and you can see we’ve got lights here so there’ll be evening hours here. It’ll be a great time.”
One of the groups on the Berkshires rich cultural roster hoping to bring their productions to the Common this summer is Pittsfield’s Shakespeare in the Park. Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Maeve Vallely Bartlett toured the seven-acre space.
“It’s a welcoming park,” Bartlett said. “It looks like it will be a very active park with the playground, splash pad, basketball court and the amphitheater. This seems like it would be a hub of activity for Pittsfield and that’s just great.”
The city put up $715,000 for the project, while the state supported the rest through Governor Deval Patrick’s Urban Parks program and Gateway Cities funding. State Senator Ben Downing of Pittsfield says the Common is a crossing ground for the city’s neighborhoods.
“These investments show how the Patrick administration understands that for our Gateway Cities to grow and thrive we need to create these spaces where neighborhoods and more importantly where neighbors can come together to celebrate everything that is good about our communities,” said Downing.
The park’s facelift also included burying utility lines, planting 30 trees, installing solar compacting trash bins and new bathrooms. Landscaping, asphalting and painting are among the finishing touches expected to be completed in the spring. Since the project implemented ideas gathered at community input meetings in 2010, State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier says it’s everyone’s park.
“Take a look around here,” Farley-Bouvier said. “Nowhere, even where there are gates is there anybody collecting admission fees. Nobody has to be a member to come to this park and enjoy what’s going to be happening here. Everybody deserves to have a place to be outside and enjoy a playground and a concert here. Everybody deserves that, not just the people that can afford those fees.”
Secretary Bartlett also championed Governor Patrick’s $360 million investments in land conservation, protecting 125,000 acres and creating or renovating 210 parks over the Democrat’s eight years in office. Bartlett says urban parks offer a place for people to relax and exercise.
“That is essential to the public wellbeing and the community spirit,” Bartlett said. “It shouldn’t just be big, wide open spaces that you need to get into your car and find. It should be in the center of our urban areas so everyone can benefit.”