By Marjorie Nesin
---- — Neighbors have seen Burnham’s Field grow more safe and clean in recent years, and now city officials are ready to revitalize and revamp central Gloucester’s largest green space, a backyard for many of urban Gloucester’s residents.
About $345,000 in state grants will allow for various upgrades for the field, which saw its last major facelift in 1984, according to Stephen Winslow, a project manager for the city. But, with multiple possibilities, city officials are looking to residents to help guide the decisions.
“It’s the people’s neighborhood park, so we want to hear what they want to do to improve their neighborhood,” Winslow said. “We want to spend this money in a way that makes this a better park. We want kids to play there and teens to hang there and have fun.”
That is why Winslow, along with Mayor Carolyn Kirk, Ward 2 City Councilor Melissa Cox and Open Space and Recreation Committee member John McElhenny are inviting area residents to a formal brainstorming meeting at The Hive on Monday, beginning at 6 p.m.
“Obviously we would like as much involvement and input as possible, especially at the first meeting, to get people’s ideas and a sense of what we can do to improve Burnham’s Field,” Winslow said.
Money for park improvements stems from two grants, according to Winslow. The state Department of Environmental Protection awarded $195,000 to the city for use on the park revitalization, and the remaining $150,000 comes from state community development block grants.
“It’s a start,” Winslow said. “With this much land, it’s sort of just a downpayment on where we hope to go.”
New lighting for the field and increased accessibility for handicapped people at entrance points are certain upcoming changes, Winslow said.
The community garden, wilted by frost, and the softball diamonds squishy with runoff, Burnham’s Field saw few visitors on a chilly Thursday afternoon.
But Kaylee O’Neil, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Veterans Elementary School, trudged through the mucky grass of Burnham’s Field with her brother and the two family dogs, Tasha and Trisha.
“It’s a nice place to walk your dogs,” O’Neil said. “They like it down here.”
Her brother Taylor Glidden, 21, said the two had resolved to daily walk their dogs the short distance from their Warner Street home to Burnham’s Field. But Glidden said he only takes his sister and the dogs to the field during daylight.
“I wouldn’t bring them down here at night,” Glidden said. “Because of the sketchy stuff that goes on.”
The field houses two softball diamonds, a community garden, two basketball courts, playground equipment and the remnants of a rusted swing set. It could be updated to include better lighting, new walking paths, new swings and playground equipment, or a water play area for children, said McElhenny, who lives in the neighborhood.
“It’s like a backyard, a side yard and front yard for people who don’t have a yard in Gloucester,” McElhenny said.
One way to ensure the field stays clean and cared for after its revitalization, McElhenny said, is to pull together community members by giving them a stake in the park’s future.
“The more people that take part in this process of improving the field, the more people who will enjoy the field afterward and feel like they’re part of Burnham’s Field, and the more people will take care of it when the paint brushes and tools are put away,” McElhenny said.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3451, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go What: Burnham's Field Forum, hosted by the city. Why: City seeking input on how it should spend $345,000 to improve the park. When: 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14. Where: The Hive, 11 Pleasant St.