The weathered field between Liberty, Pleasant and Burnham streets is going to get some much needed attention next year.
The state Department of Environmental Protection awarded Gloucester a $195,000 grant for renovating Burnham’s Field. That money and Community Development Block Grant cash will pay for $340,000 renovation project for the downtown park. The project grew out of a neighborhood effort to fix up the field in 2009, and will stand on top of work to improve it, such as the creation of the community gardens.
Community development project manager Steven Winslow said the renovation is the largest investment Burnham’s Field has seen since the early 1980s. Winslow has worked on finding ways to improve the field since he arrived in Gloucester in 2009.
“People didn’t feel comfortable taking kids down there, and that kind of stuck in my mind — something needs to be done down there,” he said
The community gardens, now in their second year, were the first step, Winslow said. Then, in 2011, the city put together a request for the state funding. Gloucester heard back earlier this month, he said, that it received the $195,000. With that money in hand, Winslow said the city will work on a design with the neighborhood this winter.
He said he’d like to break ground next spring.
Access and lighting are two big priorities. Having both will make Burnham’s Field a safer, more welcoming place, Winslow said. He added that he’d like to see the playground equipment replaced as well.
Gloucester bought Burnham’s Field in 1921, and expanded it in 1950. Before then, the field was a marshy neighborhood dump. Gloucester built housing for veterans returning from Word War II, but those buildings started to sink and were torn down in 1950.
The field has been a playing field since; the Gloucester High varsity and junior varsity softball teams and the Gloucester Patriots Pee-Wee football teams call it home. The city’s last major renovation was in 1984, through an Urban Self-Help grant.