|By Katelyn Gendron|
Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM Nine years of hard work to make the $2.4 million School Street Park a reality finally came to fruition during the grand opening ceremony on Oct. 18. However, the work is not complete.
The grand opening ceremony marked the completion of 30 of the 50 acres dedicated to School Street Park. Chris Sparks, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, explained that he and other town officials will be exploring the development of the remaining land for additional open space, picnic tables or athletic fields.
Sparks said now that the first phase of the park is complete a new master plan will be needed to identify the town's recreational needs. He added that he will most likely be seeking additional Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to hire an architect to draft the master plan.
CPA Chair Henry Kozloski noted that the committee appropriated $1.6 million of CPA funds for School Street Park.
"This entire park would not have been possible without CPA funds," Sparks said, adding that the remaining costs were supplemented through an Urban Self-Help Grant and donations.
He explained that School Street Park was a much-needed addition to the town because of the increasing need for athletic fields. "Like most towns, we are struggling to meet the growing population and sports demands in our existing fields," Sparks said, adding that overuse of the existing fields has led to their deterioration.
Mayor Susan Dawson said she will be working very closely with Sparks to ensure that the additional acreage is developed.
"It's obvious at this point that the community has been yearning for a place like this," she said, adding that the playscape and walking trails have seen a lot of use already.
Dawson explained that she has a "dream project" for a portion of the remaining acreage, which includes a spray park in the shape of Agawam and Feeding Hills and denotes each of the historic landmarks throughout town.
Sparks explained that he will be seeking public input from residents and town officials for the future development of the remaining acreage. He said the process will most likely begin next spring.