Councilor Ron Marsan helped organize some of the donations and labor in the last push. He and Zanni, who then was City Council president, said donations dried up from local corporations and residents during the recession. The grant, they said, was critical to getting the project done.
“Because there have been cuts to local aid, there’s no way communities can do things like this without a strong grants program,” said state Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, D-Methuen.
The grant is part of the EEA’s Gateway Cities Parks Program, established in 2009 to create parks and enhance recreational facilities in the 24 communities designated as Gateway Cities across the Commonwealth.
Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan said Gateway City Parks is a flexible program to improve recreational and community space that can be used for a range of projects, including recreational needs, park planning and construction, and brownfield assessment and cleanup.
“Contributing to the health and economic wellbeing of our communities, public parks provide recreational opportunities for local residents,” Sullivan said.
This year, the state is planning to spend $5.3 million for grants. Last year, the program funded $7 million worth of park construction projects and next year, $6.6 million is budgeted.
The state has identified 24 cities as Gateway Cities, meaning income and educational attainment fall below the state average.
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