CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The city of Chicopee broke ground on a new facility at Westover Air Base Saturday, honoring veterans and service dogs.

Chicopee is building a dog park at the base honoring post-9/11 veterans and service dogs. It’s a collaboration between Veterans Services and Chicopee Parks and Recreation. The park represents Chicopee’s commitment to supporting veterans and service dogs and providing a place for reflection and community gathering, according to a news release sent to 22News from the City of Chicopee.

Chicopee Parks Superintendent, Benjamin Strepka, spoke about the Park’s ability to provide recreational access to the Westover neighborhood noting, “…the Western Massachusetts Post 9/11 and Service Dog Memorial Park will activate a dormant piece of parkland to become a unique recreational space. It will also become Ward One’s first official park, a large need of the residents of the area while establishing the City’s first off-leash dog park, a goal that was defined in the last Open Space and Recreation Plan for Chicopee.”

Planning for the project began years ago and funding was secured from the Baker Administration in a 2021 Federal Grant. The city was awarded $415,000, one of 10 projects to split five million.

The initial plans included a seven-acre park that will include walking trails, nature play, and fitness areas alongside the off-leash dog park. It will be located at the Westover Industrial Gate Park at the corner of Westover Road and Honeysuckle Drive.

“This park was designed to be a unique space that is recreational, reflective, and educational,” stated Mayor Vieau. “The planning, development, and design phases included community, Veteran, and professional input to provide the region and neighborhood with a place they can use and be proud to have as part of our City. I want to thank everyone who contributed to making today’s groundbreaking ceremony possible,” Vieau added.

Senator John Velis told 22News the visibility of the park is also meaningful to those currently serving across the street at Westover Air Reserve Base.

“As airmen and military members sometimes you kind of forget you get stuck in the mud and slogging through the work. Somethings it’s nice to remember why you joined in the first place and that sense of patriotism. So it’s nice coming into the base to see this, it reminds you of that,” said Velis.

Saturday’s ceremony featured remarks from city officials, representatives from local veteran organizations, and special guests.