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Construction on Canalwalk begins

Date: 5/5/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

HOLYOKE -- City, state and federal officials gave Holyoke the old heave-ho last week.

Mayor Michael Sullivan, State Sen. Michael Knapik and Congressman John Olver heaved some dirt, signifying the groundbreaking of the first phase of the Holyoke Canalwalk on May 1. The approximately $5 million, three-phase project will create an outdoor landscape for shops, artists and leisure activities linking Dwight, Appleton, Lyman, Race and Cabot streets.

"This investment in downtown Holyoke is [paramount]," Sullivan said. "It's a wonderful catalyst for downtown [revitalization]."

He went on to thank residents and all parties involved for their "patience and support for a project long overdue."

Kathleen Anderson, director of Economic Development, noted that the Canalwalk has taken 10 years from conception to groundbreaking.

The Canalwalk will feature a brick walkway for pedestrians and bikers with seating, lighting and gazebos with space for public events, art exhibitions and businesses.

Anderson explained that Phase I will cost $790,000 and will connect the first level of the Canalwalk on the east side of the canal between Dwight and Appleton streets.

The Canalwalk is funded by several allocations including $1.2 million from the Transportation Bond Bill, $3.5 million from the TEA Bill, a $258,188 grant from MassHighway and $81,000 in city funds.

"[This project] does not come under the Recovery and Reinvestment Act [of 2009] but will create jobs and help Holyoke's redevelopment," Olver said. "We turn a little bit of dirt today and see it grow."

He added that the plan includes connecting the two-mile Canalwalk to the Connecticut River Walk in Chicopee, and the Manhan Rail-Trail in Easthampton.

Knapik noted that the Canalwalk will also highlight the old mills along the canal, landmarks documenting Holyoke's rich history as the Paper City of the World.

Anderson added that Phase II -- the second level on the east side between Dwight and Appleton streets and portions of the west side -- is out to bid for design completion.

Phase III will connect the Canalwalk to Race Street between Appleton and Cabot streets.

Anderson said future projects will include linking the Canalwalk to the Dam and Fishlift and Pulaski Park.