PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Local officials and community members celebrated Saturday the opening of the Westside Riverway Park on Dewey Avenue that was 14 years in the making.
"The people in this neighborhood of the West Side, many generations have beautiful stories to tell about their families," Mayor Linda Tyer said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. "They have many joyful moments to celebrate, and now they have a space where they can gather for these special events, where they can celebrate life where they can get to know each other. This is exactly what community really is all about."
Plans for the park began in 2007 under the leadership of Mayor James Ruberto, who was in attendance Saturday. Ruberto had a vision of transforming the neighborhood by creating a connection to the Housatonic River.
Also in attendance were state Sen. Adam Hinds, Council President Peter Marchetti, Ward 6 Councilor Dina Guiel Lampiasi, Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio, Councilor at Large Pete White, District Attorney Andrea Harrington, and former state senator Benjamin Downing.
The park along Dewey Avenue includes green space, steps that lead down to the river where canoes and kayaks can be launched, and a pavilion that can be utilized for community celebrations or block parties.
As part of the Urban River Visions Plan of 2007 in partnership with the state, the city acquired two acres of abandoned and vacant land fronting the river with a goal of providing recreational opportunities and common open space for residents in the dense neighborhood.
"This project really has been quite a journey for everyone in the community," Pittsfield's Permitting Coordinator Nate Joyner said.
"It began back in 2007, its planning visioning a riverway that spans from Wahconah Park to Clapp Park, introducing the neighborhood back to the river, a great resource in the community."
The project went back out to bid in August 2019 after the cost came out too high and in September of 2019, the project was tweaked and rebid for a lower cost. The new design eliminated a bridge that would connect the park to John Street.
The total cost of the project was about $1.2 million.
It was funded through a series of grants including nearly $500,000 in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants to remediate the site, Community Development Block Grant funds for master planning and outreach, and a $400,000 in Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) grants for construction.
The project also received funding from the National Institute of Art, $100,000 from the Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick family trust, and a city contribution of $175,000.
Pittsfield native and architect Tessa Kelly designed the park. At the ceremony, she said it almost brought her to tears to see the crowd gathered to celebrate its opening.
"I have lived in Pittsfield my whole life, many generations of my family before me have lived in Pittsfield, and never felt the kind of love and unity that I have experienced in the West Side," she said.
Kelly added that she was "so fortunate" that the West Side Legends group was forming right as planning for the park began. The city collaborated with the grassroots organization that aims to revitalize the historic area of Pittsfield to gain insight on how the park should be.
"Really, the ideas for this park came from those years of meeting with you all and we're so lucky to be part of this whole experience and the community."
Both Tyer and Kelly recognized West Side Legends board president Tony Jackson, who regularly flew in from Atlanta, Ga., to represent the area in which he grew up.
Community members celebrated the park's opening with a number of performances and events over the afternoon.
pittsfield.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.