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State funds boost six local park projects

Six local projects to provide residents with new or refurbished parks have received major boosts through a combined $2.4 million in funds recently awarded by the state.

Amesbury, Chelsea, Lynn, Marblehead, Salem, and Somerville will each receive $400,000 in grants under the Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities, or PARC program, which helps municipalities acquire and develop land for park and outdoor recreation.

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Amesbury’s grant will go toward a new city heritage park in the Lower Millyard, an old industrial area south of Market Square.

“We’re very pleased. This is another significant component to the revitalization of the Lower Millyard,” said Mayor Thatcher W. Kezer III.

The project comes as the city is relocating its adjacent public works facility and nears completion of state-funded streetscape enhancements to the Lower Millyard section of Elm Street. The state also included the Lower Millyard in a program to help municipalities clean up and redevelop contaminated areas, and plans to build a canoe and kayak launch nearby.

The city will fund the remaining $220,000 cost of the overall $620,000 park project, which calls for landscaping, benches, and other amenities.

Chelsea’s grant will help create a new park on a Washington Avenue site just off Cary Square, three blocks north of City Hall.

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Formerly the site of an auto repair shop and garage, the lot has been idle for more than a decade, according to City Manager Jay Ash. The city had the deteriorating building demolished some years ago.

After several plans to build housing on the lot failed to move forward, Chelsea officials decided it would better fit the character of the business district and nearby neighborhood “to create a small active-passive recreational space,” Ash said.

Set to break ground in June, the overall $700,000 project includes the installation of four paved play “rooms,” connecting pathways, three play structures, benches, trash and recycling receptacles, retaining walls, trees and vegetation, and new lights.

This will be the ninth new park the city has built in the last 15 years, during which time it has also renovated all nine of its existing parks. State parkland grants have helped fund all but two of the projects.

Lynn’s grant will help upgrade Neptune Boulevard Park, off the Lynnway, according to James Marsh, the city’s community development director.

The park, located behind Lynn Technical High School and the Neptune Towers apartments, includes baseball and softball fields that are also used for soccer, and an outdated playground.

“It’s in rough shape,” Marsh said, noting that the fields “are used constantly.”

The park will feature a children’s play area, new benches and picnic tables, plantings, an irrigation system, basketball court, and soccer nets and goalposts. The ball fields will get new backstops and perimeter fencing. A splash pad and volleyball court are being considered as well.

The required local match is $120,000, but the city may budget more, said Marsh, noting that all of the city’s share will be funded from its federal Community Development Block Grant funds.

Lynn has renovated three other parks the last few years with other parkland grants.

Marblehead will use its grant toward the joint purchase with Salem of the former Chadwick Lead Mills property, on Salem Harbor, which abuts conservation land in both communities.

Marblehead and Salem are partnering with Essex County Greenbelt and the Marblehead Conservancy to maintain the former industrial site as open space for passive recreation.

“We’re thrilled. It’s a really important piece of land that the city and town have been interested in purchasing for a long time,” said Rebecca Curran, Marblehead’s town planner, noting the value it will have as a publicly accessible waterfront area.

The two communities jointly applied for the grant but the funding was awarded to Marblehead because 3.5 acres of the overall 4.85-acre site are in Marblehead and all but $100,000 of the $1.6 million purchase price is for that section.

Marblehead voters last May authorized the town’s $1.5 million share and in June agreed to a debt exclusion, or temporary tax increase, to pay for it. With the grant, the town will only have to borrow $1.1 million, reducing the cost to taxpayers, Curran said. Salem’s share is being raised privately.

Salem will use its grant toward installing synthetic turf and renovating the track at Bertram Field.

Located behind the Collins Middle School, Bertram Field is home to the city’s high school football team and is used by a variety of different sports programs.

“We are thrilled because this is a priority of the city’s,” said Lynn Duncan, Salem’s director of planning and community development. She said the project would allow the city to expand use of Bertram Field, “to really capitalize on it as a resource for the city.”

Mayor Kimberley Driscoll is proposing that the city contribute funds exceeding its required match, bringing the overall project budget to just over $1 million. City councilors will need to appropriate the city’s share.

The city built a new park and renovated two others the last couple of years, also with the help of parkland funds.

Somerville will use its funds to renovate the North Street Veterans Playground, in west Somerville.

“It’s an older park in tough condition,” said Arn Franzen, the city’s director of parks and open-space planning. He said the aim is to create “a significant space” to serve the surrounding residential neighborhood, “and just a great public park for that part of Somerville.”

Seating, new play equipment and water play features will be installed, chain link fencing and gates replaced, trees planted, entrances and street lights added.

The work, scheduled to begin in July, is projected to cost $900,000 to $1 million overall, but Franzen said that by tapping federal community block grant funds, the city will only have to contribute $300,000 to $350,000. 

John Laidler can be reached atlaidler@globe.com.

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