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$25,000 in renovations reopen Pynchon Plaza

Date: 9/20/2010

Sept. 20, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- A long-closed park has been reopened thanks to $25,000 in city funding and contributions from area organizations and businesses.

Mayor Domenic Sarno and members of the Parks Commission and City Council gathered at Pynchon Plaza on Dwight Street on Sept. 16 to note the reopening of the park.

Constructed in 1976, the park has been opened and closed four times according to Patrick Sullivan, executive director of parks, facilities and recreational management.

The park, with its steps and elevator, originally served as a connection between Dwight and Chestnut streets. Its stairs and elevator were designed to make it easier for pedestrians to access the City Library and museums at the Quadrangle. The park also featured a waterfall.

The closing of the elevator, because of safety and vandalism issues, meant the park was no longer in compliance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Sullivan explained, and the entire park had to be closed.

Under the former Finance Control Board, the park had stayed closed largely due to an estimated $500,000 cost to reopen it. Sullivan praised Sarno for not allowing the FCB to slash $2 million from his department's budget, ultimately providing funds for the reopening.

Sarno noted the reopening was due to a collaboration between the city, MassMutual, the Springfield Building Improvement District and the Armory Quadrangle Civic Association. He also noted that Northern Tree Service had donated time to clear the park of trees that were deemed unnecessary.

Sarno said the improvements make the park a "welcoming area" for residents in nearby apartment complexes.

To become compliant with the ADA, Sullivan said a fence has now been installed across the steps to prevent people from using them. Trees were cleared from the space, benches were installed and repairs were made to the electrical system and to the pump motors to operate the waterfall.

Sullivan said the city is studying how to make the park ADA compliant so it can return to its original purpose of linking the two streets. He added there is also a $9 million plan for the park that would include constructing a building into the hillside that could be used as a caf and as a venue for cultural events.

"This is not the final chapter for Pynchon Plaza but the beginning of good things to come forward for this park," Sullivan said.

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