SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – There is a new children’s park in Springfield’s McKnight neighborhood!

To celebrate Westminster Street Children’s Park’s development, Mayor Domenic J Sarno, PBRM Executive Director Patrick Sullivan, Park Commission Chair Jennifer McQuade, Springfield Community Preservation Committee, McKnight Neighborhood Council, and Pride Stores held a ribbon cutting event. Many came out to celebrate the grand opening of Westminster Street Children’s Park this Thursday night.

McKnight Neighborhood Council, in partnership with Pride Stores, applied for a Community Preservation Act (CPA) grant and a KaBoom! Let’s Play Community Construction Grant to redevelop a vacant lot on Westminster Street into a pocket park. The park is equipped with accessible activities so children of all ages and abilities can enjoy the playground. Volunteers from the McKnight neighborhood helped install the accessible omni-spinner play element and accessible playground ramp as part of the project.

Mayor Domenic Sarno stated, “This collaboration between the city, the McKnight neighborhood, and committed private entities is another example of what can be accomplished when we all work together to further enhance our communities. The improvements made at this park will allow future generations of this neighborhood to enjoy this open space for years to come. I would like to thank the McKnight Neighborhood Council, Bob Bolduc & Pride Stores, and the Nunes Companies for their contributions to this project. Donations from our business community are a key component in the revitalization of our great city. This new park is the best example of what can happen in our neighborhoods when everyone is willing to roll up their sleeves and work together. I appreciate everyone’s efforts and allegiance to our city in this project.”

Patrick Sullivan, Executive Director of Parks, Buildings, and Recreation Management added, “This project included installation of accessible playground elements, sensory play and swings for youth of all ages and abilities, picnic table benches, accessible walkways, fencing, irrigation and landscaping. We congratulate Bob Bolduc and the McKnight Neighborhood Council for their vision to create a neighborhood park. Bob Bolduc’s team and the members of the McKnight Council were hands on throughout the design of this beautiful pocket park. The involvement of the business community coupled with the neighborhood council made this project a great success. The Westminster Street Park project is the best example of the importance of the Community Preservation Funding. Without this funding and the support of Mayor Sarno allocating CDBG funds this project would have never happened. This new park will provide a comfortable gathering spot for neighborhood residents to relax with their friends and families while children enjoy the playground amenities.”

Those in attendance, telling 22News that this park is a step towards revitalizing the city. “There’s been blight in certain areas that we needed uplifting and this is a great way to do that,” said Robin Taimanglo of Springfield. “I’m happy the kids have a safe place to go and it’s accessible to kids on wheelchairs or anything, and that was the goal.”

Springfield matched over $100,000 for the CPA and KaBoom! grants to ensure successful completion of this collaborative project. A total of $260,844 in grants from the Community Preservation Act (CPA), $100,000 in Community Development Block Grants from the City of Springfield, and $15,000 from KaBoom! Grant, as well as in-kind donations from Pride Stores and The Nunes Companies, Inc., for a total project cost of $360,000. Westminster Street Children’s Park was designed by GZA, GeoEnvironmental, Inc., and built by The Nunes Companies.

“We are happy to have been the catalyst for this project to all come together and for our significant contribution for this playground for local kids,” stated Bob Bolduc from Pride.

McKnight Neighborhood Council president, Walter Kroll, remarked, “This project came from a neighbor’s ask at our McKnight Neighborhood council meeting. It became a real project from partner Bob Bolduc with his generous funding and resources. The city donated the lot, and the Parks Department worked hard to incorporate the neighborhoods requests for special needs children and to ensure the looks of the park fit in with the neighborhood while incorporating safety requirements. We received funding from the CPA to secure the other funding needed to complete the project. It’s fitting the neighborhood helped with the hands-on community day to help finish parts of the playground. I’m proud of our board, the partners, the neighbors, the city partners and all that all worked together to deliver something needed and special in our community.”

Jennifer McQuade, Park Commission Chairperson added, “This is a great event for the McKnight neighborhood. I am especially pleased with the new playground. This will allow youth of all ages and abilities to enjoy the park. We are pleased to celebrate the Grand Opening today.”

It’s dedicated to Guy Kenison (1978-2021), who gave back to Springfield kids through the Springfield Book Exchange.

Springfield Book Exchange was started by Guy Kenison and his wife Maria Irene Kenison in 2021 to provide free books to kids who didn’t have access to book stores, comic book stores or a library during the pandemic. Currently, there are nine free books boxes in neighborhood parks across the city: Angelina Park, Blunt Park, Emily Bill Park, Jaime Ulloa Park, Johnny Appleseed Park, Kenefick Park, Marshall Roy Park, Van Horn Park, and Westminster Street Park.

Guy Kenison’s obituary describes him as a proud Springfield resident who “loved Springfield and served proudly as vice-president of the East Springfield Neighborhood Council.” He organized free art and computer programs, summer activities, and movie nights. In collaboration with his wife, he established the Springfield Book Exchange to make sure every kid in the city had free access to books.

Local News

Kayleigh Thomas is a digital reporter who has been a part of the 22News team since 2022. Follow Kayleigh on Twitter @kayleighcthomas and view her bio to see more of her work.