When State Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan delivered news that Chelsea’s application for a state grant to construct another new local park was approved, the city’s legislative delegation to Beacon Hill cheered.
“I’m so excited for our community and especially this neighborhood,” said Rep. Gene O’Flaherty, in reference to the $400,000 State Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) grant that will allow the City to transform the former Tudor Garage on Washington Avenue at Bloomingdale Street into a new park.
“We’ve all worked long and hard on this, and were very hopeful that the project would qualify for a State grant,” added O’Flaherty. “Hearing the good news means that work wasn’t wasted and our dream of adding to our expanding open space resources will be realized with an attractive new addition to Cary Square.”
O’Flaherty and City Manager Jay Ash had made a major push for State funding over the latter half of 2012, and enlisted state Sen. Sal DiDomenico and Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein to help. The quartet spoke with Sullivan about the importance of the park to the neighborhood.
“As a father of two young boys myself, I know how important it is to have a place for kids to play safely. This park will do that and more, because it also provides an intergenerational element that should attract seniors to also recreate,” predicted DiDomenico.
Although on a modest sixth of an acre parcel, the new park will feature four paved play areas, connecting pathways, three varying play structures, benches, trash and recycling receptacles, shading retaining walls, trees and vegetation, and pedestrian appropriate lighting. City planners envision varying age levels, from toddlers to seniors, finding something of interest in the park.
“That’s what especially drew my attention to the project,” explained Reinstein. “Our seniors have so much to share with new families, and all the studies show that both are better off because of such interaction. To create a new space that encourages all ages to be outside together and having fun is really a terrific concept.”
Ash said that concept was achieved through input from two community meetings and advanced by the willingness of the City Council to go forward with the project.
“We acquired the parcel as a result of a tax lien and had to match the state grant as well. The combined cost of $400,000 to the City’s treasury was agreed to by the City Council because its members know how important open space is to making neighborhoods healthier and more livable,” said Ash.
Ash reported that City Councillor Cliff Cunningham, the district councillor for that section of the city, and then City Council President Leo Robinson, who continues to serve as an at-large councilor, were huge champions of the project.
“This is a project that will fit the character of Cary Square and serve an area of our community that is most underserved by open space. This new park, coupled with the near-complete reconstruction of Washington Avenue and the new residential development on the site of the former taxi cab garage at 183 Washington Avenue, is promising to reinvigorate the Cary Square area and will lead to an improved quality of life for all who live around it,” noted Cunningham.”
“We’ve been doing this all around the city, transforming vacant or blighting properties into neighborhood appropriate development, from new housing to new parks like this one,” stated Councillor Robinson. “This project and the others we have accomplished are meeting our goals of making Chelsea a more vibrant and attractive location for families and for further investment.”
The PARC Program was established in 1977 to assist cities and towns in acquiring and developing land for park and outdoor recreation purposes. Financed by the environmental bond fund that Chelsea’s legislators endorsed, PARC supports land acquisition and the construction, or renovation of recreation facilities – such as spray parks, community gardens, and playgrounds.
“Projects like the Chelsea one are vital to the enhancement of neighborhoods and provide additional recreational opportunities for neighborhood residents,” said Sullivan. “They contribute to the health and economic well-being of communities throughout the Commonwealth, and that’s why we continue to prioritize them.”
Since 2007, the Commonwealth has made a historic investment of more than $300 million in land conservation focused on three goals: investing in urban parks, preserving working farms and forests, and protecting large natural landscapes for habitat.This investment has resulted in the permanent protection of more than 100,000 acres of land and the renovation or creation of more than 150 parks.
Chelsea has been a regular recipient of PARC funding.
“We’ve got a remarkable record for creating new parks and renovating all of our others,” boasted Ash, who said that only Worcester has created more new parks in the state than Chelsea over the last 15 years. “We owe our State government a debt of gratitude for its role in helping to make that incredible achievement possible.”
Ash said that the new park project would likely go into construction in July and would take six months to complete.
“None of us can wait to see what has been a vacant eyesore turn into the pride of this neighborhood,” he said.