For Immediate Release - October 15, 2010

Patrick-Murray Administration Celebrates Fitchburg Park Dedication

State and local officials, environmental advocates celebrate Nashua River revitalization

FITCHBURG - Friday, October 15, 2010 - Building on the Patrick-Murray Administration's commitment to urban parks, Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles today joined state and local officials and community groups to participate in the dedication ceremony for the newly completed Riverfront Park in Fitchburg.

The park, which runs along the North Nashua River, was converted from a brownfield site into a centrally located public park that includes a refurbished pedestrian bridge connecting the park to downtown Fitchburg and the development of a riverside trail system. The river channel was also manipulated to create more natural habitat conditions for fish and wildlife.

"Improvements like these make better communities where residents and visitors can enjoy outdoor activities and appreciate the natural resources it is our duty to protect," said Secretary Bowles. "I would like to congratulate Mayor Wong and the city of Fitchburg for their vision and commitment to this project."

The city's riverside revitalization efforts, completed in 2010, were funded in part by EEA's Parklands Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) grant program. The $264,688 grant paid for the construction of a terrace that leads to the river's edge and the installation of granite blocks for an amphitheatre. The city - in concert with the Fitchburg Greenway Committee, Nashua River Watershed Association, North County Land Trust and The Trustees of Reservations - was able to have another riverfront parcel accepted into the state's Gateway City Park Program, also administered by EEA. Through that program, EEA recently granted the city of Fitchburg $1.6 million awarded over three years from 2008 to 2010 for the acquisition, design and construction of Phase I of a new public park at 41 Sheldon Street.

"The completion of Riverfront Park marks the opening of the North Nashua River in Fitchburg for residents to appreciate and enjoy. I am very pleased to see this space now available to the public and look forward to seeing teachers use the new amphitheater to teach their students about the river," said Congressman John Olver.

"A waterway that once was the poster child of industrial pollution is now a shining example of successful river restoration," said Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong.

Additional restoration efforts and planning were supported by the Department of Fish and Game's (DFG) Division of Ecological Restoration, which provided funding and technical assistance to design, modify and permit the park enhancement, improve access to the river and to restore aquatic habitat through its Riverways program. Riverways provided funding to and partnered with the city of Fitchburg to host focus groups on the future of the North Nashua River and provided ongoing technical assistance. Out of that process, a River Master Plan was developed and this newly created Riverfront Park was selected as a focus area.

"Wonderful things can happen when partners come together and focus on the restoration of a critical natural resource like the North Nashua River," said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin.

The North Nashua River suffered from decades of pollution from textile mills. Over the last 40 years, state, municipal and local advocates worked together to transform the riverside park and clean up the Nashua River. Some of those advocates include Marion Stoddard, a founder of the Nashua River Watershed Association and member of the Fitchburg Greenway Committee. Other partners that assisted the city of Fitchburg were the Department of Environmental Protection, the Fitchburg Greenway Committee, the Massachusetts Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, engineering and planning firm AECOM, and the residents of Fitchburg.

DFG is responsible for promoting the enjoyment and conservation of the Commonwealth's natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land preservation and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and game species, and enforcement of the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. DFG promotes enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth's lakes and ponds.