NORWOOD – General Manager Tony Mazzucco, Planning and Economic Development Director Paul Halkiotis and Conservation Planner Holly Jones are pleased to announce that the Town of Norwood is a recipient of a state grant through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Program.
The town was awarded $717,650 toward the creation of the Bernie Cooper Riverfront Park in South Norwood. The project was one of nine that were awarded a portion of $6 million in Land and Water Conservation Fund Grants, which were announced by the Baker-Polito Administration on Oct. 11.
Norwood’s 2022 Special Town Meeting allocated the funds for engineering and construction of the park from Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds as well as general funds. This grant will reimburse the general fund and the Community Preservation Committee for the funds allocated at Town Meeting.
The town was previously awarded a $50,000 MassTrails grant to bring the project from a conceptual design to construction-ready plans.
“We are grateful to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Department of Conservation Services for its support in awarding the grant on the state level and shepherding it through the approval process with the National Park Service,” Jones said. “We look forward to developing the Bernie Cooper Riverfront Park as a place that provides people a way to connect with nature and the neighborhood, while also protecting environmental resources in the area.”
The Bernie Cooper Riverfront Park, sometimes formerly referred to as the “Saints Lot” for its location behind Saint John Avenue, Saint Joseph Avenue and Saint Paul Avenue, was purchased by the town in 2020 using CPA funds for Conservation and Recreation. The Conservation Commission and Board of Selectmen voted in joint session to name the park in honor of Norwood’s former Assistant Town Manager Bernie Cooper.
The nearly 7-acre lot lies next to Eliot Field and the Balch Elementary School and is bordered by the Neponset River and Hawes Brook. It is also less than a half-mile from the Coakley Middle School, Hawes Pool and Endean Park and is served by a bus route on Washington Street.
A community design process in the summer of 2021 resulted in a conceptual design and construction budget for the park. Residents overwhelmingly favored a wheelchair-accessible and natural trail design that would help visitors feel immersed in nature. The design also features green stormwater designs, river overlooks, and a nature play area and outdoor classroom on the side closest to the Balch School.
LWCF grants are administered by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and are announced in partnership with the National Park Service. They are funded through the sales of offshore oil leases.
“Protecting land and making park improvements is a priority for our Administration, and we are proud of the work we have done with our federal and municipal partners to create more of these opportunities across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We look forward to furthering our efforts on ensuring natural and cultural resources are preserved for future generations.”
About Land and Water Conservation Fund Grants
The LWCF Grant Program was established by Congress in 1964 to fulfill a bipartisan commitment to safeguard the country’s natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage, and to provide recreational opportunities to all Americans. Using zero taxpayer dollars, the fund invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing to help strengthen communities, preserve local history, and protect the national endowment of lands and waters. Any municipality with an approved Open Space and Recreation Plan, as well as the Departments of Conservation and Recreation and Fish and Game, and Massachusetts federally recognized tribes, are eligible to apply for this program.
Since the program’s inception, more than $128.9 million has been directed to the Commonwealth’s parks and open spaces.