By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Haverhill, Lawrence and several other North of Boston communities will share $3.2 million in state money to build recreational walking paths, snow sledding trails, baseball fields and make improvements to parks, playgrounds and an athletic stadium.
Rick Sullivan, the state energy and environmental affairs secretary, announced the awards yesterday at Haverhill City Hall. The money is coming from two grant programs: The Gateway City Parks program and the Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities program.
Haverhill is getting $400,000 to install new lighting and rehabilitate a section of crumbling concrete grandstand at Trinity Stadium and $612,000 for improvements to the inner city’s Swasey Park. City officials have said the 77-year-old stadium is so poorly illuminated that there is barely enough light to meet requirements for baseball.
Since 2006, the state has provided $3.4 million for repairs and improvements to the stadium, most of it to repair two of the five grandstand sections, fix structural problems and replace the grass field with artificial turf. But at least another $2 million is needed to repair crumbling sections of the stadium grandstand and install new lights, officials have said.
The rest of the money on the way to Haverhill will be used to rebuild baseball diamonds at Swasey Field and to add a walking path and snow sledding trail there. The state provided $1 million for prior improvements to the park that were completed last summer.
Lawrence received $400,000 to improve two recreational pathways at Campagnone Common across from City Hall. The money will also be used to add benches, tables and trees on the common and to improve systems that deal with storm water in the area.
Salisbury also got $400,000 for improvements to Partridge Brook Park. The project includes building a trail system and athletic fields with concession stands and rest-rooms as well as community gardens, signs and public playing areas.
In Gloucester, the Essex County Greenbelt Association won $50,000 for improvements to the 10.3-acre Norcross Gateway, which abuts the 300-acre Tompson Street Reservation.
The largest recipient of the state money was Lowell, which received $1.35 million for improvements to the Concord River Gateway.
“The Patrick Administration is committed to investing in our parks and open spaces across the Commonwealth,” Secretary Sullivan said. “In addition to preserving open space, improving recreational opportunities and protecting the commonwealth’s natural resources, these investments will create economic growth across the region.”
State Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, attended the grant ceremony in the mayor’s office with representative from other communities receiving money. O’Connor Ives, co-chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, said the parks grants will not only improve quality of life for residents, but also spur economic activity.
In doling out the money, Sullivan also announced a new state grant program called “Our Common Backyards.” He said the new program is aimed at building playgrounds and spray parks in eligible cities across the state, including Amesbury, Beverly, Gloucester, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Methuen, Newburyport, Peabody, Revere, Salem and Winthrop. Each community will be eligible to receive up $200,000 for qualifying projects, Sullivan said.
The Gateway City Parks program began in 2009 and is designed to provide municipal officials with a menu of funding options for all phases of park development. Twenty-six Massachusetts cities are eligible for the program, which targets communities with populations greater than 35,000 and median household incomes, per capita incomes and educational attainment levels below the state average.
The PARC Program (formerly the Urban Self-Help Program) was established in 1977 to assist cities and towns in acquiring and developing land for park and outdoor recreation purposes. Any community with an up-to-date Open Space and Recreation Plan is eligible to apply for the program, state officials said.