Gov. Deval Patrick joined volunteers in helping to clean up the park along the rail trail.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Saturday's rain couldn't wash away the spring cleaning that was in the air.
Across the county, volunteers took to various parks to clean up winter's mess, plant new flowers and prep for summer.
On Farnum's Road, Gov. Deval Patrick, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard Sullivan and Department of Conservation and Recreation Deputy Commissioner Jack Murray joined some 20 volunteers is cleaning the park along the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.
"It is really built around a sense of community, civic involvement, volunteerism and it serves functionally to engage our stakeholders and get ready for the summer recreation season," Murray said. "All of these volunteers makes it a lot easier to get up and running on the summer."
Park Serve Day is in its eighth year — starting the first year Patrick took office — and brings volunteers to state property. Thousands of volunteers took to about 40 different state parks in time for the tourism season.
"It's an important part of the Massachusetts economy. When you look at tourism in particular, it is one of the biggest parts of the Massachusetts economy in terms of jobs and dollars coming into the state both from residents and out of state," Sullivan said, adding that every dollar spent on the state park system yields three to four in return.
M. Edwards Jewelers closed so employees could help clean. The Old Forge Restaurant fed the volunteers with a catered lunch. However, the rain reduced this year's effort, bringing just short of 20 volunteers to the event.
"In the past we've had 72 people here. But, it was a gorgeous day," said Kathleen Flynn-Kasuba, owner of M. Edwards Jewelers.
The jewelry store has partnered with DCR for the last five years to head the effort at causeway.
"This is our way to celebrate Earth Day," added the local DCR Field Operations Team Manager Becky Barnes.
Patrick added that, "It is also a way to mark the changing of the season and encourage spring to come."
Massachusetts has the ninth largest state park system in the country and has continued to add to it. Sullivan said in recent years, the state has added hundreds of acres to conservation. Meanwhile, the state continues to build and renovate parks.
"Over 25 percent of the population in Massachusetts can walk, which we define as a 10-minute walk, to a new or totally renovated park," Sullivan said.
The governor started with raking along the side of Farnum's Road and then planted flowers in the park space.
The largest project was the 2009 reconstruction of the roads leading up Mount Greylock at a cost of $23 million, following by a renovation of the Visitors Center. The state spent $750,000 to renovate the Benedict Pond Dam in Monterey and is in the process of renovating the First Street Common in Pittsfield — a total project cost of $4.6 million.
"Massachusetts has a history and a culture of respecting our open spaces so it is an important part of who we are," Sullivan said. "It is a commitment to very fabric and who we are in Massachusetts."
The park system contributes to the economy in many ways, Sullivan said. From improving the quality of life to attract and keep residents to tourism. In Pittsfield, the Common is expected to be tied in with the city's arts economy and programming as well as farmer's markets and community gardens.
Across the state, 170 parks have been either totally reconstructed or newly built. The state is launching another initiative to build 54 new parks in urban areas. Those are eyed for the most underserved areas, Sullivan said.
"We've committed to creating 54 new community parks in our most urban areas of Massachusetts," he said.
With all of those acres to maintain, spring cleaning can be a daunting task, which Murray said wouldn't be possible without volunteers.
"We depend strongly on volunteers to help us out. We're about to roll out a new volunteer policy that we've been working on for several months now that really codifies our relationship with volunteers on risk and liability," he said. "But beyond that, we couldn't do what we do without partnerships."