NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The next stage of the Noel Field Athletic Complex was confirmed on Friday with the announcement of $400,000 in state funds toward a splash pad and other improvements.
The entire project is estimated at $778,000, with the balance to be matched from the city's annual Community Development Block Grant funding.
Richard Alcombright, who left office this past Monday after four terms as mayor, had received notice of the approval just before Christmas after a conversation with Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton.
"It almost brought tears to my eyes, it really did," the mayor said last week. "Mike [Nuvallie] has worked so hard on that concept of a park within a park. He really sold me.
"When you saw the success of the skate park this year, which I think was really a phenomenal success, to have something that would really appeal to the younger kids, the little kids, is spectacular."
The skate park that opened last year after nearly a decade of effort and shepherded Nuvallie, of the city's Office of Community Development, was also funded largely by a Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant through Environmental Affairs. The project was the first phase of renovating the athletic complex to reflect the changing tastes and needs of a new generation.
The city had tried for the grant in 2016 to finish Phase II but did not get the funds. The year before, it had received the full amount toward the $676,000 skate park that opened on July 1.
"I'm really glad this came through so we can continue to do the work at Noel Field," said new Mayor Thomas Bernard on Friday. "It will be a nice match with the skate park. Everytime I drive by the skate park, it was busy and being actively used.
"I like the idea of [Noel Field] becoming one of the premier recreation areas and other end, in the West End, we have the Alcombright Complex."
He said he was grateful to the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker and the Office of Community Development for their work in making this a priority.
Phase II also includes a new double basketball court, bocce and pickle ball courts, and reconfigured walking track. The less used tennis courts will be removed since residents can play at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts courts off West Shaft Road. The first phase had included laying the groundwork for the next step by installing electrical and water lines to reach the splash pad area. A Department of Public Works building at the site is expected to be partially demolished, leaving enough structure for restrooms.
More detailed plans will be developed now that the city has received the grant. Public meetings will also be held for residents' input.
The city had hoped to hear in November whether it was getting the Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant program, the normal time of the year they are announced. Instead, the Baker-Polito administration announced $6,385,785 in grant funding for park and recreation improvements in 22 Massachusetts communities on Friday after the double-barrelled blizzard/deep freeze forced a cancellation of a joint public announcement on Thursday in Pittsfield.
Pittsfield is also getting $400,000 toward a splash pad, this time at Clapp Park. Pittsfield put in a splash pad at the Common on East Street as part of a makeover of what was mostly a field to include a performance venue, paved pathways and a playground. The two cities were the only Berkshire communities to receive PARC grants; nearby Buckland received $32,000 to build the town's first playground.
While Bernard's moving forward with Noel Field upgrades and other recreational projects already in process, one of his focuses will be to look at making the city, particularly its downtown, more friendly to bicyclists and pedestrians.
"The idea of downtown as an accessible, safe biking space, I really think it's a great development," he said, pointing to efforts to create bike lanes and the bike path, the community-driven Bike-Around during Downstreet Art and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art's bike-share program created during the time he worked there. "For the community to embrace downtown as a biking area is fantastic."
Making the city both bike and pedestrian friendly will go a long way to keeping visitors to the city away from their cars and at a level to see what the community has to offer, Bernard said. Also, he said, "you don't have to go far from the downtown to get into the wilderness."
Beyond that, his recreational priorities will also include existing sports programs and facilities.
"It's really making sure we have the right infrastructure and resources to support youth sports," Bernard sadi.
North Adams' splash pad and renovations are expected to open by July 2019, just two years after the skate park was completed.
"That's going to be pretty cool when it's done," Alcombright said. "My oldest granddaughter, who lives with me, will be just over 2 years old when that opens, the perfect time."
And he'll be a resident then who can complain if Nuvallie doesn't pull it off. "So he's got to get it right," laughed Alcombright.
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