Easthampton, MA–– Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary (EEA) Rick Sullivan announced more than $4.3 million in investments for parks, recreational spaces and open space conservation in 16 western Massachusetts communities. Secretary Sullivan made the announcement in Easthampton, where a $400,000 Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) grant will help make improvements at the Nashwannuck Pond Promenade Park.
In addition to Easthampton, six other communities, Adams, Amherst, Athol, Holyoke, Springfield and West Springfield, received PARC grants.
Governor Deval Patrick previously announced $1.7 million in PARC and Gateway City Parks grants to complete improvements to First Street Common in Pittsfield.
A Gateway City Parks grant also went to Chicopee. The city will use $805,000 to complete phase two of the Szot Park Stadium improvement project.
EEA created the Gateway City Parks Program in 2009 to develop and restore parks in urban neighborhoods, and 26 cities are eligible for the program.
Amherst and Belchertown received Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity (LAND) grants. Amherst will use its $105,665 grant to create a new community garden with a trail integrated throughout the property in East Amherst Village Center along the Fort River. Belchertown will use its $133,650 grant to double the size of the Jabish Brook Conservation Area. Since 1961, LAND grants have helped cities and towns acquire land for conservation and outdoor recreational uses. To qualify for the reimbursement grants, communities must fund projects upfront and the protected open space must be open to the public.
Drinking Water Supply Protection grants were announced for Northampton, Westfield and West Springfield and five Conservation Partnership grants, ranging from $7,500 to $85,000, were awarded to nonprofit organizations to help leverage funds to purchase land for conservation or recreation in Great Barrington, Hatfield, North Adams and South Hadley.
Strengthening the Patrick Administration’s commitment to urban park investments, Secretary Sullivan announced a new grant program that will build a playground or spray park in each of the Commonwealth’s 54 cities. The Our Common Backyards grant program will help cities create or renovate parks in the neighborhoods that need them most. Each city is eligible to receive up to $200,000 in grant assistance. The Our Common Backyards grant application will be available on Comm-pass and the EEA website soon.
“The Patrick Administration is committed to improving our parks and open spaces across the Commonwealth,” said Secretary Sullivan. “In addition to preserving open space, improving recreational opportunities and protecting the Commonwealth’s natural resources, these investments will create economic growth across the region.”
The PARC Program (formerly the Urban Self-Help Program) was established in 1977 to assist cities and towns in acquiring and developing land for park and outdoor recreation purposes. Any town with a population of 35,000 or more year-round residents, or any city regardless of size, that has an authorized park/recreation commission is eligible to participate in the program.
The First Street Common is the only large, accessible public open space that serves the Morningside neighborhood of Pittsfield, and the completion of this project will help create a stronger connection between the downtown community and the surrounding neighborhoods.
EEA created the Gateway City Parks Program that targets communities with populations greater than 35,000 and median household incomes, per capita incomes and educational attainment levels below the state average. The program is designed to be flexible and provide municipal officials with a menu of funding options for all phases of park development.