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State comes through with grant for James Edgar Park facelift

Brockton’s request for a $400,000 state grant to revamp historic James Edgar Park has been approved, officials have learned, money that will not only rejuvenate the surrounding neighborhood but also play a role in a downtown renovation plan to make Brockton safer and more attractive for new businesses and families.

The Parkland and Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant expected from the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will fund new playground equipment in the green space bordered by Brook, Dover, South Fuller, and Winthrop streets, an area that until recently was plagued by drug transactions and littered with used hypodermic needles.

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The grant will also pay for new volleyball and basketball courts as well as parking areas, storage and bathroom facilities, benches, and drainage for the field where American Legion games are played, officials said.

“Winning this grant shows what working together can accomplish,” said Ward 2 City Councilman Thomas Monahan, a member of the Parks Commission who worked on the funding request.

Monahan said he, fellow city councilors, members of Brockton’s legislative delegation, as well as the Brockton Redevelopment Authority and Mayor Linda Balzotti’s office, all did their part.

“The overhaul of Edgars will help revitalize the neighborhood, which has already seen great improvement with the implementation of a community police beat, and will bring families together as they take advantage of the park,’’ Monahan said.

The recreation area, which fronts the boyhood home of boxing great Rocky Marciano, had steadily fallen into decline as its offerings, including horse shoes and bocce, also lost favor with the younger set.

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But now, a facelift will work wonders — as about $600,000 from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development did on 11 other park areas in Brockton, Balzotti said.

“This is great news,’’ she said. “Folks who might occupy new downtown housing units could possibly walk there, or take a short ride, and it will be useful to people who go there now.”

Years ago, bocce was a big sport in Brockton, Balzotti said, but today people want volleyball.

“And I have had kids asking me since I took office for a skate park,’’ which is also a possibility, she said. “It will just be terrific for the whole city.”

James Edgar Park, which celebrates its 100th anniversary next year, is the site of memorials to several high-profile and much-beloved late residents, including Marciano and World War II veterans. It is named for Scottish émigré and entrepreneur James Edgar, who in 1890 became the first department store Santa Claus.

“What better way to celebrate,’’ Balzotti said.

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at michelebolton@live.com.

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