HOLYOKE— The long-awaited first phase of improvements at Holyoke’s historic Anniversary Hill Park is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, November 15. This stage of work includes the creation of a new accessible trail corridor and burial of overhead utilities.
Also, among the first phase of improvements, are creation of a new utility corridor and accessible trail off of Overlook Drive, and an upgraded trail system to Scott Tower that will be wheelchair accessible and meet U.S. Forest Service Standards for accessibility.
Work will also include burial of overhead utilities that currently service the cell phone tower in the park, originally built in 2001. That work is a requirement for several funding sources that the City plans to leverage for further improvements, such as the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
The Anniversary Hill Park project is a multi-year effort. Holyoke has long sought to restore the city’s largest park, which was bisected by the construction of I-91 in the early 1960s. The interstate cut off the western part of the park from Community Field.
Current restoration efforts began in 2021 with the acquisition of an additional 14.1 acres of forest north of Scott Tower — an undertaking assisted by Kestrel Land Trust. The city used Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding and a grant from LWCF to complete the $300,000 acquisition, which opened up the possibility of an alternative point of public access.
Holyoke’s Office of Conservation and Sustainability collaborated with the Parks and Recreation Department and Kestrel Land Trust to conduct a community outreach process and creation of a master plan for overall park improvements. This included an online survey distributed in English and Spanish that garnered over 450 responses from residents in all wards of the city.
The city hired GZA GeoEnvironmental to work from these recommendations, conduct in-person outreach events, and develop a master plan for improvements. The collaboration brought about a community vision event in October 2021 where over 100 attendees joined in participatory planning activities, including a mood board, in-person interviews, and a guided tour of the park and signature feature Scott Tower.
Feedback on the master plan was incorporated at on-site community events on April 29 and August 27, and a live Powerpoint presentation at the Holyoke Senior Center on October 19, 2023.
During the year 2022, Holyoke’s Office of Conservation and Sustainability gathered an additional $1.7 million in funding from grant sources to support an initial phase of improvements. The: Land and Water Conservation Fund, MassTrails, Community Development Block Grant, and Gateway Cities Parks Grant all leveraged in match by additional local CPA dollars.
Step 1 is the utility burial and creation of an access corridor with stone dust trails and benches. Leftover available funding will be used to improve existing Civilian Conservation Corps-era stone structures, trail improvements, and landscaping in accordance with the community vision.
Work is expected to be completed and trails made open to the public by June 2024.
About the Holyoke Office of Conservation and Sustainability
Dedicated to preservation of Holyoke’s open spaces, preserving water resources, reforesting the city and working to enhance our position as a leader in sustainability. Learn more at holyoke.org/departments/conservation
About Kestrel Land Trust
Kestrel Land Trust conserves and cares for forests, farms, and riverways in the Connecticut River Valley of Western Massachusetts, while nurturing an enduring love of the land. Kestrel has conserved more than 27,000 acres of wildlands, woodlands, farmland, and riverlands since 1970 in partnership with willing landowners, communities, the Commonwealth and federal agencies. Kestrel is accredited by the National Land Trust Alliance.