For Immediate Release - May 12, 2011

Six Gateway Cities Parks Projects Underway or Set to Break Ground As Part of the Patrick-Murray Administration's Construction Season Kick-Off

BOSTON - May 12, 2011 - In recognition of the vital role that public parks play in maintaining the health and economic wellbeing of cities, Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. today marked the start of construction season by highlighting six urban park projects currently underway or set to start, as part of 17 ongoing Gateway Cities Parks projects across the state.

Funded in part through EEA's Gateway Cities Parks program, these projects in Chicopee, Fitchburg, Lawrence, Malden, Melrose, Pittsfield and Taunton are the first to begin construction since the signature Patrick-Murray Administration program began three years ago. They represent a $7 million investment by the state, matched by $3.8 million in municipal funding for park improvements including landscaping, parking lot expansions, and new trail and playground construction.

"These six projects provide jobs and enhanced quality of life by providing park and recreational opportunities to urban residents living and visiting in the Commonwealth's Gateway Cities," said Secretary Sullivan.

The Gateway City Parks Program was created in 2008 and has since invested $9.5 million on construction, as well as site assessment, surveying, engineering, and other services necessary to produce the design and construction documents for future park creation or renovation. Plans to build a dozen other parks are complete or in progress, with the expectation that construction of those projects will begin next year.

This season's construction projects are listed below.

Chicopee

  • A state investment of $332,500 toward a total project cost of $495,000 in improvements to lighting and irrigation systems at Szot Park Stadium.

Fitchburg

  • A state investment of $976,000 toward a total project cost of $1.3 million to construct a new public park on a five-acre lot at 41 Sheldon Street, the site of a former mill, which was purchased with a previous Gateway City Parks Program grant. The project includes work to extend a trail network, construct a parking lot, install picnic tables, benches, lighting and trash receptacles, and plant trees, shrubs and grass.

Lawrence

  • A state investment of $2.6 million toward a total project cost of $2.9 million for Groundwork Lawrence's, a nonprofit organization, construction of 2.5 miles of paths along the Spicket River from Manchester Street Park to the outfall of the Spicket River into the Merrimack River. Envisioned by the community as an "emerald bracelet" this greenway will connect neighborhoods and six existing parks - including the recently completed Manchester Street and Dr. Nina Scarito Parks. The Greenway provides a safe, healthy connection to schools, the downtown and mill district, housing, and the commuter rail station.

Malden and Melrose

  • A state investment of $500,000 toward a total project cost of $3.2 million to renovate Pine Banks Park, including a running track that features a synthetic infield, and a natural grass softball field.

Pittsfield

  • A state investment of $1.6 million toward a total project cost of $1.8 million for improvements to First Common park, including demolition of the existing playground, picnic area and skate park along the northern boundary of the park; installation of a retaining wall and fence, construction of a new playground area in the northeast corner, improvements to the park entrance at Wallace Place, and construction of the First Street promenade.

Taunton

  • A state investment of $983,000 toward a total project cost of $1.2 million to construct a new public park along the Mill River, including installation of a low-impact development stormwater treatment system, construction of a recreational trail, removal of invasive species and replacement with native plants, and creation of a public greenspace.

The Gateway City Parks initiative is a hallmark of the Patrick-Murray Administration's unprecedented commitment to state support for urban parks, habitat protection and preservation of working landscapes. Twenty-two Massachusetts cities are eligible for the program, which targets communities with populations greater than 35,000 and median household incomes, per capita incomes and educational attainment levels below the state average.

Gateway Cities is a flexible program, providing municipal officials with a menu of funding options for all phases of park development. Funding can be used for activities and costs, such as brownfield assessment and cleanup, park planning and recreational needs assessments - including the development of Open Space and Recreation Plans - activities not previously eligible for state parks funding. Cities can also use the grants for acquisition, design and construction of parks, greenways and other recreational facilities.

Funding for this grant program comes from the Energy and Environment Bond Bill signed by Governor Patrick in August 2008.