For Immediate Release - July 23, 2014

Patrick Administration Formally Dedicates Farnham - Connolly State Park in Canton

Former Canton Airport site named for two local World War II Airmen

CANTON — Wednesday July 23, 2014 —Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett joined Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Commissioner Jack Murray, Senator Brian A. Joyce and local officials to formally dedicate DCR’s Lt. Arthur E. Farnham and Sgt. Thomas M. Connolly Memorial Park in Canton. The six-acre park project highlights the Patrick Administration’s commitment to improving and expanding parks in urban and densely populated areas. The park was dedicated to two World War II veterans who had worked at the site.

“Under Governor Patrick’s leadership, we have been able to enhance our natural, cultural and recreational resources,” said Secretary Bartlett. “Massachusetts is the sixth smallest state in the nation, yet it has the ninth largest state park system. That is a testament to this Administration’s efforts to expand our parks and open spaces.”   

“It's because of Veterans like Lt. Farnham and Sgt. Connolly that we live in freedom and are able to enjoy the exceptional and wonderful natural beauty of our state," said Secretary of Veterans' Services Coleman Nee. “The Commonwealth is so grateful for their bravery, sacrifice and service to our country, and this park named in their honor will ensure their legacy is preserved and honored for all future generations.”

“The opening of this park is the culmination of nearly 15 years of hard work and dedication,” said Commissioner Murray. “We are honored to help turn this area into a new park for the public, and dedicate it to two local veterans who trained here.”

Sergeant Connolly and Lt. Farnham were on the same B24 bomber crew and rescued in the Halyard Mission, a once top-secret mission that involved the rescue of more than 500 American airmen. The mission is viewed by historians as one of the greatest rescue missions of World War II.  In August of 2011, Canton resident Paul Seery, a former co-worker of Connolly’s at Emerson and Cuming, and Connolly’s son, Ted, asked the Board of Selectmen to consider naming the park in honor of the two men, who had worked as mechanics.

“All I can say is that is I appreciate this extremely wonderful park more than I can fully express” said Bob Connolly, son of the late Sgt. Thomas M. Connolly.

DCR’s Farnham – Connolly State Park is also home to numerous plant and wetland wildlife. The park will also provide a future link to a wider regional trail network, as the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has agreed to construct an underpass tunnel at the northern end of the property, as part of the agency’s I-95 Widening Project.

Originally opened in June of 1931 as the state’s third largest airport, Canton Airport served as a popular local flight school throughout the 1930s and 1940s.  The first Helioplane was designed and flown at the airport in 1949. Due to flooding and a failure to modernize, the Canton Airport closed in the late 1950’s. The Commonwealth purchased the site in 1996 to be part of a larger, 238 acre site within the Fowl Meadow/Ponkapoag Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).  The $7.8 million remediation and cleanup project began in 2000 after significant contamination was discovered at the site, stemming from industrial use after the Canton Airport closed.

“Over fifteen years ago Representative Bill Galvin and I began our efforts to secure funding to turn this once contaminated six acres into what is now a crown jewel within the beautiful Fowl Meadows area”, said Senator Brian A. Joyce, “so this is indeed a happy day for me.”

“These men truly deserve this honor.  The heroism they displayed during WWII, when they were really just kids in their early 20s, is remarkable.  They are credited with saving fellow servicemen after being shot down over Yugoslavia and surviving for 42 days until they were rescued.  The fact that they met and trained at this airfield makes this naming extra special,” said Representative Galvin.  

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), an agency of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, oversees 450,000 acres of parks and forests, beaches, bike trails, watersheds, dams, and parkways. Led by Commissioner Jack Murray, the agency’s mission is to protect, promote, and enhance our common wealth of natural, cultural, and recreational resources. To learn more about DCR, our facilities, and our programs, please visit www.mass.gov/dcr. Contact us at mass.parks@state.ma.us.