North Adams park will get $455,000 upgrade

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NORTH ADAMS — A popular, neighborhood park in Brayton Hill is slated to receive a walking path, a shaded seating area, and updates to its basketball, baseball and softball facilities.

The punch list also calls for a multipurpose field at Brayton Park, a community garden, landscaping, a small parking lot and new signs. The improvements, brought together from a combination of federal money, are expected to total $455,000.

The city-owned park, situated near Brayton Elementary School, the Northern Berkshire YMCA and the Brayton Hill Apartments, is in a neighborhood bustling with children. The area sees activity, from walkers to drivers, morning, noon and night, according to Michael Canales, the city's chief administrative officer.

Some of the work will help improve safety around the park. For example, an informal footpath between the apartments and the school will be formalized, and a low-visibility spot at Brayton Hill Terrace and Brickyard Court will be fixed.

North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard said work also will better connect the park to the view of the Hoosic River.

The mayor called the park improvements a "great way to build a sense of community and civic pride."

A $318,500 federal Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities, or PARC, grant, issued by the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, will be paired with $136,500 the city receives from federal Community Development Block Grant money. The City Council unanimously signed off on the grant proposal last June.

This month, members of Payette, a Boston-area architecture firm, toured the park. The firm recently selected the Brayton corridor as one of four sites in the state for which it will offer pro bono design and consulting services. The design award is part of Payette's inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service initiative.

The city, North Adams Public Schools and the local Mass in Motion program coordinator also submitted an application for a $1 million Safe Routes to School Program infrastructure grant through the state Department of Transportation. The proposal is to further support improvements at key intersections along Brayton Elementary School's entry and exit routes. Awardees will be announced this spring.

"These additional projects fit very much with the PARC grant. All the stars just seem to align," said Emily Schiavoni, community outreach coordinator at North Adams Public Schools.

Schiavoni is married to City Councilor Benjamin Lamb, who found out about the Payette program through his work with Patronicity, the online civic crowdfunding agency that helped garner money for the city's Eagle Street revitalization initiative. Schiavoni then got the green light through the school district to apply for the design award.

On Monday, a team of delegates from North Adams will travel to Payette's design studio for an input and design session.

Payette associate and fabrication manager Parke MacDowell said the goal is to produce plans that show options and opportunities.

The North Adams officials will be able to pick and choose the design features that might best serve the neighborhood within the scale, scope and budget of the project. Project components might include leveling, surfacing, installation of lighting, tree planting, sculpture installations, new fencing, benches and improved line of sight through the removal of overgrowth.

MacDowell said that over the past three years, the firm has become increasingly involved in public-private partnerships designed to enhance accessibility to public spaces and promote a higher quality of living.

"I think it's an accelerating initiative, which is actually really heartening. These are local events that are saying we recognize local opportunity," MacDowell said.

Much of the city's recreational efforts in recent years have been focused on the Route 8 corridor, specifically Noel Field. There, the city has won previous PARC grants for the construction of a new skate park, which opened in 2017, and a new splash park that is set to be constructed this year.

"Investing in these important park projects will make our parks safer, increase recreational opportunities, and improve access for people of all abilities," Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement. "Our Administration is proud to help communities acquire new parkland to provide their residents with beautiful places to enjoy the great outdoors with friends and family."

As these various Brayton projects take shape, community leaders and stakeholders say they will be reaching out to residents for input on the final designs and amenities.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.

Jenn Smith can be reached at jsmith@berkshireeagle.com, at @JennSmith_Ink on Twitter, or 413-496-6239.



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