By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Deval Patrick recalled what an urban park meant to him growing up in Chicago, Ill., when he made the announcement on May 1 the state will invest $1.3 million in North Riverfront Park.
Standing near the banks of the Connecticut River next to the Pioneer Riverfront Club, Patrick spoke about the importance of parks and added with a smile, “I encourage them to get it done before I leave office.”
The area is part of the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway that is along the riverfront. Executive Director of Parks, Buildings & Recreation Management Patrick Sullivan, explained to Reminder Publications, the state funding would pay for the creation of additional greenspace on part of a parking lot and a fitness trail with a number of exercise stations.
Sullivan said the city will begin breaking ground for the improvements in August and he expected them to be 75 percent completed by winter with completion of the project by early next spring.
The city will add $300,000 to the project’s budget.
Rick Sullivan, the secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs said projects such as this one are “important to the definition of quality of life in cities across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
Six other communities besides Springfield recently received funding through the Signature Urban Park program.
Jose Claudio, chief operating officer of New North Citizens Council said that redevelopment of the riverfront in the North End has been discussed for the last 28 years
Jim Sotiropoulos, the executive director of the Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club, said, “This is an important day for the North End.” His organization is renovating the former Bassett Boat building and has been running a number of rowing programs.
Sotiropoulos noted the Connecticut River is “the cleanest it has been in generations” and the club has brought hundreds of people down to it “to explore healthy lifestyles on the river.”
Mayor Domenic Sarno noted Patrick’s commitment to communities in Western Massachusetts and said, “I’m really going to miss this guy. I really am.”