Program targeting low-income, urban, and minority neighborhoods is providing $8.9 million in park development grants throughout Massachusetts
BOSTON – Plans are underway to develop or restore a dozen public parks in under-served urban neighborhoods across Massachusetts, thanks to $8.9 million in grants under the Patrick-Murray administration’s new Gateway City Parks initiative, Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles announced today.
The Concord River Greenway in Lowell, Szot Park Stadium in Chicopee, a new park and trail in Fitchburg, a greenway along the Neponset River in Boston, and Bicentennial Park in Fall River are among projects assisted in the program’s initial phase, with grants totaling $8.9 million. Additional Gateway City Parks grants will be announced in the months ahead, funded through the Environmental Bond bill signed by Governor Patrick last year. Twenty-two Massachusetts cities are eligible for the program, which targets communities with population greater than 35,000 and median household incomes, per capita incomes, and educational attainment levels below the state average.
“Parks define the character of our cities and improve the quality of life for residents by providing safe, attractive places for families to gather and children to play,” Governor Patrick said. “From the Berkshires to Boston, the projects we’re announcing today will reinvigorate neighborhoods across the Commonwealth.”
Created in recognition of the fact that public parks are essential to the health and economic wellbeing of urban areas, but that cities often lack the resources to plan and develop them, the Gateway City Parks program is a hallmark of Governor Patrick’s unprecedented commitment of state support for urban parks, habitat protection, and preservation of working landscapes.
“Through this program, our administration is partnering with cities across the Commonwealth to restore or create clean, safe places for children and families to enjoy and appreciate,” said Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray. “Redeveloping neighborhood parks can also trigger further urban redevelopment, which is truly needed to support our gateway communities.”
“The Patrick-Murray administration is pleased to team up with municipalities to advance projects that will expand outdoor recreational opportunities in places where residents often have few other options,” said Secretary Bowles, whose office administers the park grants. “The Gateway City Parks program is a great example of what we can accomplish when communities and the state work together on common goals.”
The new program is flexible, 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 clean-up, 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.
The Patrick-Murray administration issued Requests for Proposals in October 2008 and May 2009 seeking communities wishing to be designated as Gateway Communities in order to qualify for grants. Before receiving a grant, each eligible community works with EEA on a parks needs assessment to identify the best projects for development.
EEA gives priority to parks projects of different types and scales that are not eligible for another funding source. In addition, the program targets projects that address critical park infrastructure needs; have strong support from city leaders; engage local businesses, neighbors and others in park financing, programming and stewardship; support broader urban revitalization efforts; or are accessible to environmental justice neighborhoods – defined as communities where median annual household income is at least 65 percent below the statewide median, and at least 25 percent of residents are either minorities, foreign born, or lack proficiency in English.
Projects assisted through the Gateway City Parks Program to date:
- Boston - $5.2 million for extension of a Department of Conservation and Recreation greenway corridor along the Neponset River.
- Chicopee - $75,000 to complete master planning and produce design and construction documents for the rehabilitation of Szot Park Stadium to reduce energy and water consumption and make the facility handicapped accessible.
- Everett - $30,000 to produce an Open Space and Recreation Plan.
- Fall River - $105,000 to produce design and construction documents for the rehabilitation of and enhancements to Bicentennial and Griffin Parks.
- Fitchburg - $500,000 to acquire a parcel of land for a public park, engage the public in park planning, and produce design and construction documents.
- Haverhill - $400,000 to acquire land for a trail network along the Merrimack River.
- Leominster - $155,000 to produce design and construction documents for the Monoosnoc Brook Riverwalk.
- Lowell - $250,000 to produce design and construction documents for Phase III of the Concord River Greenway and to conduct visioning and produce a preliminary design for the renovation of South Common.
- Methuen - $30,000 to produce an Open Space and Recreation Plan.
- Pittsfield - $120,000 to complete master planning and produce design and construction documents for the rehabilitation of First Street Common.
- Revere - $30,000 to produce an Open Space and Recreation Plan.
- Worcester - $2 million to construct improvements to Vernon Hill Park.
Other cities qualified to participate in future grant rounds include Brockton, Chelsea, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lynn, Malden, New Bedford, Salem, Springfield, and Westfield. Including Gateway City Parks grants, the Patrick-Murray administration’s total annual investment in public parks is over $12 million. EEA’s long-standing Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities Program (PARC) supports approximately $8 million in municipal parks projects per year, with preference given to new parks or major upgrades serving inner city neighborhoods and environmental justice populations.