| By Erin O'Connor |
WESTFIELD - Two Westfield State College (WSC) students and bike club members with ambitions in environmental law will re-open a Westfield park that has been largely inactive since the 1950's.
Tekoa Park will be reopened Nov. 4 at 11 a.m. with a ceremony and reconstruction efforts that were performed through the help of a handful of volunteers. The park is located off of Route 20 near the Westfield and Russell line.
"This grand opening is from the blood, sweat and tears of our work," Eric DiMarzio, WSC bike club president, said to The Reminder. "The area is just phenomenal," he added.
DiMarzio, Chris Flynn, the bike club vice-president, and a handful of volunteers have been working on restoring Tekoa Park to a useable recreational facility for hiking and biking for a year and a half now.
Other volunteers who have been active include Tom Lyons, a sophomore at the College and students from the Circle-K volunteer group.
They have been working with members of the New England Mountain Bike Association, the Public Works Dept. and the Parks and Recreations Dept.
College and city involvement has been coordinated by Ken Magarian, director of special programs at WSC and a commissioner for the Parks and Recreations Dept.
"Don Podolski of New Horizons Bike Shop brought up the park at a bike club meeting," DiMarzio said. "In the 1920's the park was opened with picnic and carriage tables. In the 60's money was put in for restorations but then depleted and in the 70's, the park was closed due to lack of funds."
The park was said to be in its prime during the 1950's.
DiMarzio and the volunteers have performed restorations using their own skills and tools that have been borrowed from the local Parks and Recreations Dept. and family members.
DiMarzio explained the importance of a park like Tekoa and its contrast to Stanley Park.
"Stanley Park is flat and here there is much rock and climbing," he said.
"It is amazing for people to go and see the finest of nature," Flynn added.
The two founding members of the bike club Flynn and DiMarzio said the work is not complete yet for the park.
"We would like to have it complete in two weeks," Flynn said.
"We hope the restoration efforts do not stop once we leave," DiMarzio added. Flynn and DiMarzio will be graduating in the spring.
DiMarzio said there is room for much possibility for the park such as being utilized by the College.
"Right now it is a matter of what we can build with it, there is a lot of potential here," he said. Flynn has had previous experience building mountain bike trails and DiMarzio said he has learned a lot from Flynn and his family in this area of labor.
Walking along the miles of trail DiMarzio points out elements of the work himself and volunteers have performed.
"The Circle K group volunteered their time laying the brown dirt that we are walking on. Chris and I put up these logs for barricades to stop erosion," DiMarzio said.
DiMarzio said he favors the park for bikers due to the lack of off-road biking paths currently offered in the city, but sees a variety of opportunities for the community.
"Westfield is primarily for street bikes with thin tires," he said. "Mountain bikes have thick tires for woods and dirt terrain."
Hiking on the park trails starts at a point under the Route 20 bridge going into Russell. Halfway through the hike hikers are level with the bridge and upon reaching the top of the hike hikers are looking above the bridge and almost even with the horizon of Rattlesnake Mountain.
"The beauty of this project is that stuff like this can be done and you don't need an army of people," DiMarzio said.
Children, adults and ideas are welcome to the park's re-opening. Parking is just before the Russell Bridge that crosses Route 20 when you are coming westbound.
For more information, to volunteer, or for help with directions call DiMarzio at (508) 971-1251.
Erin O'Connor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.