HAVERHILL — When you think of Plug Pond, hot summer days come to mind — families beating the heat by splashing in the water and enjoying picnics under shade trees.
But city officials said the park is about to become a three-season recreational area, thanks to almost $400,000 from the state.
Mayor James Fiorentini said Haverhill is receiving a $398,857 grant for upgrades to the Plug Pond Recreational Area, a popular gathering spot during the summer where children and adults enjoy swimming, picnicking, fishing and simply relaxing.
The pond is Haverhill's only public beach, an oasis for inner-city families on hot summer days. The project that will make the recreational area into a spot residents can also enjoy in the spring and fall includes construction of a new play structure with fencing, new waterless compost restrooms, improvements to the entry road, new welcome and informational signs, a new picnic area with tables, shade canopies and 20 shade trees, the mayor said.
Fiorentini said the money is coming from the state’s Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) program and is part of $8.7 million in grants recently announced by Gov. Charlie Baker to help communities improve public parks and playgrounds across the state.
Plug Pond is off Mill Street, with an entrance near Mill Brook Park and the new Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In addition to swimming, the recreational area is also popular for fishing and hiking along a trail system around the pond.
Fiorentini said the upgrades to the Plug Pond Recreational Area are part of his ongoing plan to improve parks and playgrounds in neighborhoods across Haverhill. The city has recently made improvements to Riverside Park, Cashman Field, Swasey Field, George Washington Landing Park and the Fiorentini Rail Trail in Bradford, among others.
“We have an aggressive plan for improving our neighborhood parks and part of that is applying for state grants to supplement our regular budget whenever we see an opportunity,” the mayor said. "Plug Pond is very popular and heavily used in the summer for swimming, but these new improvements will help make it a three-season park by upgrading the playground and picnic areas."
The park also provides a spot for wintertime activities such as ice fishing and snowshoeing.
Human Services Director Vincent Ouellette, who oversees Haverhill parks, said the city will begin seeking bids to design the Plug Pond improvements immediately. He said he expects work to begin sometime next summer.
"Massachusetts' open spaces are a significant asset to our state, providing recreational opportunities to residents across the Commonwealth while also helping to build resiliency to the impacts of climate change,” the governor said. "Our administration is proud to fund these important efforts that will create new parks, support the agricultural community, and conserve critical natural resources."