, Gloucester, MA

January 15, 2013

Editorial: City officials right to leave Burnham's steps to neighbors

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — Many people think of a community’s revitalization through proposals for economic development — and there’s certainly a context to that amid Gloucester’s and other cities’ and towns’ lingering economic struggles.

But not all revitalization needs to be tied to businesses and economic gains. There are other ways to revitalize a community and neighborhood as well — and thankfully, it’s clear that Gloucester officials recognize that.

By netting $345,000 through two state grants, the city has set the stage for a series of improvements to Burnham’s Field, the “neighborhood park,” as city project manager Steve Winslow put it, for much of the downtown area, especially along Prospect Street and its many side streets.

And the city is, in large part, leaving it up to those neighbors and other city residents to decide how they want much of the money to be used, with Mayor Carolyn Kirk, Winslow, Wad 2 City Councilor Melissa Cox and Open Space and John McIlhenny of the city’s Open Space and Recreation Committee, having hosted an opening brainstorming session last night at The Hive on Pleasant Street.

While the park has basic needs — better lighting, better access for people with disabilities, and basic safety improvements to the field itself, which serves as home to the Gloucester High girls’ softball team and the Gloucester Patriots of the Cape Ann Peewee Football League – the use of other funds should indeed be up to those who use the park most, or would use it more if the city were able to add more services and facilities.

Burnham’s has already taken on some distinct improvements in recent years, most notably with the installation of a community garden. And, as Veterans School fifth-grader Kaylee O’Neil told our staff writer, Marjorie Nesin, last week, the park has become a popular place for residents to walk their dogs.

Burnham’s Field includes two softball diamonds, a community garden, two basketball courts, and playground equipment — including what amounts to the remnants of a rusted swing set. McIlhenny, who lives near the park, says it could be updated new walking paths, new swings and playground equipment, or perhaps a water play area for children, all steps that would make the park more family- and neighborhood friendly.

But it’s encouraging that city officials, at least in this instance, seem willing to let residents have a significant voice in how the park is upgraded.

This is, after all, a revitalization of their neighborhood in which the city and state are investing. It should indeed be their choice in seeing how the money is spent.