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Rebuilding the City Park and
Recreation System in Lawrence


When I look back over some of the accomplishments of my administration during the past five years, one area that really stands out is the improvements to the city park system. This is also one area that took a lot of cooperation from many different groups and organizations which have chosen to work together for common goals. I think one thing everyone could agree on is that our park system had become run down and insufficient for our recreational needs.

The city of Lawrence has some great natural resources with three rivers running through it, but it was for the very reason of harnessing the rivers for power and waste disposal that we face the challenges of accessibility and pollution. I’m proud to say that during the Sullivan administration we are well on our way to removing or overcoming many of these obstacles. Our problems were not unique and the urban River Visions Program provided many opportunities and potential solutions. Tougher environmental and anti-pollution laws have improved our waterways, and Brownsfields Legislation has helped provide funding for cleanups of previously unusable greenspace.

To date we have expended $15 million over the last five years for park improvements. We have done that with forging public/private partnerships as well as leveraging state and federal funding to compliment local reinvestment. A twenty-two park improvement program was phased in with all areas of the city getting equal levels of attention. This includes new attractive signage, benches, trash receptacles, and fencing through our whole park system. Other parks were singled out and scheduled for major improvements such as Storrow Park, Pemberton Park, North Common Ballfield, Sullivan Park and the upcoming Mt. Vernon Ballfield complex.

As a built-out city, we have encountered problems when it comes to sighting our new schools. Even though they have come at the expense of some parkland, it has resulted in many park improvements as well. The four ballfields at the South Lawrence East School are perfect examples of that and I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t brag a little about our newly renovated and vastly improved Veterans Memorial Stadium. The crowning jewel of our recreational system will quickly garner state-wide attention as a premier venue for sporting events, concerts, and city celebrations. Beside Sullivan Park, there will also be two beautiful new ballfields behind the new Lawrence High School and visible from the highway. These will be complete with concession stands, press box, lighting, bleachers and irrigation.

The plan to create a greenway along the Spicket and Shawsheen Rivers is well underway with the addition of Brook Street Park, Den Rock Park and the newly designed FEMA Park that will be constructed this year.

The good news is we have plans to continue the effort well into my second term. Just this week, we received great news of a new grant award from the state to create a first-of-its-kind skateboarding park next to the Leonard school. This idea was initiated by students who worked hard to create a safe place for skateboarders to enjoy their sport in the city of Lawrence.

So, whether it’s active or passive recreation, we have many more opportunities for our children to enjoy their leisure time in our great city. I truly feel that recreation in a city that is as densely populated and demographically young as Lawrence is key to a good quality of life for all our citizens. Unlike some of our surrounding communities, we have extremely small lot sizes and small yards, so our park system has to be even that much letter. I know from talking to our residents, as well as many visitors, that these improvements are being extremely well received. I want to thank groups like Groundwork Lawrence, members of the community who actually do the work, all the neighborhood associations and the many individuals who have worked with the city and my administration in championing these great improvements. These wonderful new green spaces within our borders have enhanced everyone’s quality of life. This is a legacy of leisure that I know will continue to be built upon and something we can all be proud of as they are enjoyed by many generations of future Lawrencians.

Michael Sullivan is the mayor of Lawrence and is his second four-year term. you can email him at Sull33@aol.com or call his office at 978-794-5858.

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The November, 2006 Edition of the Valley Patriot
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