CDBG Spotlight: A new spring for Burnham’s Field

Once dilapidated, Burnham’s Field in Gloucester, Mass. is getting a dose of new life thanks to funding – plus the efforts of some dedicated community members.

The field had not undergone any major renovations in 30 years.

That all changed when a community group called the Friends of Burnham’s Field decided to pitch in to help revitalize the field. John McElhenny, the group’s founder, said it started three or four months ago with a modest membership of three to five people.

“Now it’s probably up to thirty or forty people who have contacted us and said, ‘I care about Burnham’s Field. I want to be involved too,’” McElhenny says. “There’s really a lot of momentum behind the Friends of Burnham’s Field.”

The community garden, which began in 2011, was one of the first steps to revitalization. McElhenny says the garden has 20 plots. Families get their own plot, where they grow vegetables and flowers. The garden has created a community of people who care about the field, and that has led to more frequent cleanups, removal of graffiti and repairs to the field’s fencing.

More improvements are set to get underway this spring with the help of more than $345,000 in funding from community development block grants, state Department of Environmental Protection funds and contributions from the Community Preservation Committee. McElhenny says the funds will go to two new playgrounds, one for toddlers, and one for older kids; improved lighting; pathways through the field; renovations to the two basketball courts; an area for kids to play in hot weather; and restroom facilities.

McElhenny says he had the support of local politicians in securing funding for the project. Stephen Winslow, senior project manager at Gloucester’s Community Development office, helped organize the grant process. State Senator Bruce Tarr and Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk have also been supportive.

“Burnham’s Field sits in the heart of Downtown Gloucester and serves as a prime spot for play, basketball and pick-up soccer games by hundreds of area youth,” Winslow says. “Neighbors had sounded the alarm that old facilities, lack of lighting, trash and drug use made the field less and less desirable for families. CDBG funding proved invaluable in getting the ball rolling on planning and implementing a park rehabilitation and have resulted in over a 1 to 1 match in state and local funding. Mayor Carolyn Kirk and other local officials will all join with the community on May 3rd to finally break ground on this project that has been 5 years in development and design. ”

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