A few weeks ago, state Sen. Bruce E. Tarr and I met on a chilly morning at the community garden at Burnham’s Field. We delighted in a tour of the garden by the community gardeners themselves, and were the happy recipients of the last of the garden’s bounty, including herbs, carrots, and a Brussells sprout or two.
Longtime Gloucester residents can recall the days when Burnham’s Field was the jewel of the city center as its largest open green space. Today it is in need of renovation. It hasn’t had a facelift since 1984 when it was the proud home of the Gloucester Fishermen baseball and softball team. Today it is the home of youth football’s Patriot team as well as heavily used by girl’s softball, youth T-ball, pick p soccer games, and many other activities befitting its amenities and location in the center of a child-friendly neighborhood.
Caring neighbors realize that if left neglected, the field can become a magnet for vandalism and trouble. Through the hard work of community-minded residents drawn to a worthy cause, the field across from St. Ann School will again become a source of civic pride.
In addition to touring the community garden, Sen. Tarr and I were there to congratulate these stewards of Burnham’s Field on the award of $340,000 in grants from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Community Development block grant program to transform Burnham’s Field. These funds will pay for new play areas, field improvements and upgraded security. These upgrades truly will make a difference for the children and families who will use the park in decades to come.
While the grants give us the necessary push the field needs, the real story here is the “village” that came together to restore Burnham’s Field. In today’s era, communities must rely more and more on committed folks who are willing to step up and make a difference. Luckily, our residents are up to the challenge as shown by the outpouring of enthusiastic support over the past four years.
There are many people in our city to thank, but credit starts with Patti Amaral, aka “The Litter Lady,” who founded Gloucester’s Clean City Initiative and, starting in 2009, recruited volunteers and their children to clear the field of trash and glass. Thanks also go to John McElhenny of Allen Street and the members of the City’s Open Space and Recreation Committee. John has tirelessly advocated for the park and, notably, helped to create the community garden there in the summer of 2011.
The City Council, Sen. Tarr, state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, Steve Winslow of the city’s Community Development Department, and city employees from the Police and Public Works departments also deserve recognition. While I cannot list the names of everybody who pitched in, I am not alone in offering heartfelt appreciation for everything the community has done and will continue to do for Burnham’s Field.
The work that the Burnham’s Field “village” has done is wonderful, but it will not end with the grant and pending restoration project. In years to come, neighbors must collaborate with the law enforcement community to protect the field from those who would litter it with trash and broken bottles or otherwise diminish it.
The future of Burnham’s Field will remain bright as long as youngsters are able to enjoy the playground, families have a place to grow fresh vegetables and herbs, and athletes can use the facilities for softball, football and soccer.
Together, we have made it possible to restore Burnham’s Field, and together we will make sure that it remains a treasure.