Party down in support of Springside Park

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PITTSFIELD — Fans and stakeholders of Springside Park are planning a grand summer gala to help restore and reinvigorate a historic house and landscape in the heart of the city.

To take advantage of the nostalgia and fanfare that typically comes with the Fourth of July weekend, the Springside Park Conservancy and Gala Committee will host an inaugural outdoor summer party on Friday, July 1, to raise funds for park improvements through the Conservancy.

"It will be here, in the park, under the lights," said Springside Gala Committee Chairwoman Lisa Tully, announcing the event in the park's Hebert Arboretum during a Thursday afternoon press conference.

The tented event, priced at $30 per person, will feature an elegant garden party ambiance, with a buffet of fare from local restaurants and caterers, and a cash bar of locally produced wines and beer.

The Rich Vinette Jazz Quartet will perform jazz standards for dancing and mingling. The Conservancy will also present a new annual commendation, the Vincent Hebert Award, which will be given to a member of the community who has made outstanding contributions and had a positive impact on the 237.5-acre Springside Park.

Meanwhile, the historic building formally known as Elmhurst but commonly called the Springside House, will be open for tours in advance of a five-year restoration, under a recently approved 37-page Springside Park Master Plan.

"The Conservancy are to be lauded," said city Open Space and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath of the city's Department of Community Development.

Tully's fellow gala committee members include Jeff Hunt, Donna Carey, Kathleen Amuso, Alexis Jones, Howard Siegel, April Discoe-Keogh, and Lisa Boyd.

The members and board of directors of the nonprofit Hebert Arboretum, as well as the Friends of Springside Park, the Morningside Initiative, Springside Greenhouse Group and the Tyler Street Business Group have also been integral stewards of the open public recreation space.

"Springside Park has been unique in local history and the level of stewardship over the years," said Joe Durwin, president of the Springside Park Conservancy. "This is a new step forward in taking care of the park."

In addition to gala funds, grants have been sought to help support restoration work on the property, from the house to hiking trails and playground equipment. Most recently approved was the allocation of $20,000 in city Community Development Block Grant funding to study, plan and ultimately rehabilitate the long neglected Springside Pond, a once popular pool for gathering, and in the winter, for ice skating.

Any proceeds from the gala ticket sales or donations will go into a newly designated Park Improvements Fund, to enhance the park and make it a "destination," as McGrath called it, in the city.

Such plans include improving accessibility to the park; the development of a Springside Natural Park Center for horticulture and life and environmental science education; enhanced landscaping and recreation planning, and the restoration of the Springside House, from the foundation up.

"The spirit of collaboration has really come alive at Springside," said McGrath, who's also a neighbor of the park. "This is the city's largest, and arguably most important park."

Tully, who also grew up in the city's north end near the park, said her greatest expectation for the event is for people to come to it. She showed press conference attendees a photo, likely taken in the 1940s, of Elmhurst's porch packed with well-heeled dancing teenagers. Tully said she wants people at the gala to not only bring donations but to bring stories, and to volunteer or participate in this and other Springside Park events.

"What I really would love is a turnout, for people to show that you care," she said.

Reporter Jenn Smith can be reached at 413-496-6239.


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