The National Park Service has awarded a $250,000 grant to help fund improvements to a popular park in an inner-city neighborhood in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The money from the national Land and Water Conservation Fund, coupled with an additional $250,000 in funding, will pay for long-planned improvements to Jaime Ulloa Park to help promote recreation and improve the quality of life for people in the city’s North End neighborhood.
Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal recently made the announcement about the grant award. He said it underscores the responsibility of government to be good stewards and custodians of open space and parklands.
"Here it is a statement of principle because frequently it is the underserved economically who take advantage of the public park system," said Neal.
Mike Rivas, a North End resident, said the park is very active. It is across the street from a housing complex for seniors, who come over to the park to sit outside and play dominoes. There is a basketball court and a baseball diamond along with a playground for young children.
" So, yes this park is very very important to this neighborhood," Rivas said.
Patrick Sullivan, the city’s director of parks, said the planned work includes landscaping new playground equipment, lighting, benches and tables. A retaining wall along the entrance to the park on Morgan Street will be removed.
This will be the first major improvements to the park in 30 years when it was dedicated in memory of Ulloa, a longtime neighborhood activist. Jose Claudio of the New North Citizens Council said Ulloa, who was confined to a wheelchair as a result of being partially paralyzed in a swimming accident, was a strong advocate for recreation.
" We want to make sure that tradition keeps going in this park," said Claudio.
In addition to the $250,000 grant from the National Park Service, the city has allocated $110,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds and $140,000 in local funds for the project.
Mayor Domenic Sarno said his administration has spent $10 million on parks throughout the city.
" I go back to when I was a kid and the importance of having a park to go to, " said Sarno in explaining why he's made park improvements a priority. " We are very fortunate for a city our size the park system we have is second to none."
Construction for the Ulloa park improvements is expected to begin next spring.