With summer approaching, multi-million dollar upgrades have been finished at two parks in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts.
Riverfront Park, which was closed for most of last year, forcing the city to move the July 4th fireworks show and concert, has reopened following a $3 million renovation. And, a $2 million restoration has been completed at Stearns Square, a block long park in the heart of the city’s Metro Center.
Mayor Domenic Sarno described Riverfront Park, which stretches for almost 2 miles along the Connecticut River, as an “underused gem.”
"We are going to be programming this Riverfront for many many activities, " said Sarno, who stated there would be concerts, cultural events, and arts in addition to the return of the July 4th fireworks.
The improvements to Riverfront Park include new landscaping, trees, park benches, lighting, and walking paths. There is a bike path that runs through the park with observation areas along the river.
A performance stage was rebuilt and some new amenities added, according to the city’s parks director Patrick Sullivan.
"We tried to incorprate the neighborhood into the design, so we now have a playscape for the neighborhood kids. The splash pad is for kids during the day and at night it lights up as a fountain," said Sullivan.
Also new to Riverfront Park are surveillance cameras that connect directly to the Springfield Police Department’s real time crime analysis center. There is a police kiosk at the entrance to the park that will be staffed when events are scheduled. The park will be patrolled by officers on foot and bicycle, according to acting Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood.
" A zero tolerance policy here, " said Clapprood. "No loitering as far as gangs of kids, no drinking and hanging out. We want people to feel safe here."
Riverfront Park is also the location for the city’s new 9/11 memorial that includes an artifact from the World Trade Center. A dedication ceremony is scheduled on June 19th.
Stearns Square was built in the late 1880s and designed by architect Stanford White, whose other works include the second Madison Square Garden and the Washington Square Arch in New York City and the Rhode Island State House.
Landscape architect Anja Duffy, who was hired by the city to design the restoration of Stearns Square, said she consulted old drawings and photos. The walkways through the park were widened, grass and shrubs were planted, a granite bench was restored, and a fountain featuring a globe and water-squirting turtles was painstakingly recreated.
" It was very fun," said Duffy.
The city hired an arborist to preserve eight large oak trees in the park.
Through a series of widened pedestrian ways, the include Stearns Square, people can now move about more easily in Springfield’s Metro Center, explained Sarno.
Sarno said Stearns Square also serves as the public entrance to the city’s new dining district.
Located just off Stearns Square is the city’s new Innovation Center that is home to several start-up businesses.