$400K grant kick-starts Kendrick Park playground in Amherst

  • A sculpture is displayed in June 2018 in Amherst’s Kendrick Park as part of “XTCA: Cross Town Contemporary Art,” an exhibit of outdoor sculpture stretching from the UMass Fine Arts Center to the park.

Staff Writer
Saturday, September 28, 2019

AMHERST — A 3.3-acre green space at the northern tip of downtown Amherst — largely kept open and undeveloped since the town acquired it in 2006 and the last home was moved from the site in 2007 — is scheduled to get its first permanent attraction in summer 2021.

A decade after the Kendrick Park Design Advisory Committee began examining how to bring more activity to Kendrick Park to make it both a multi-use site and an oasis in an urban setting, Amherst officials have secured a $400,000 Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) state grant to create a playground at the heart of the park and install benches, tables and formal walkways.

Bounded by Triangle Street to the north, North Pleasant Street to the west and East Pleasant Street to the east, Kendrick Park is known as the site of the Boy Scout Christmas tree sales at its southern end, while a couple of pieces of public art, including the Portal sculpture, have been installed. Over the years, it has also been used for a weekly Wednesday farmers market and as a concert venue by the Amherst Business Improvement District.

The grant is seen by town officials as creating a new focal point to attract families, residents and visitors to the park, which was the gift of George Kendrick and his sister, Jenny, who created a trust fund in the 1930s with the idea that all 11 houses on the land would be relocated or torn down to make way for a “landscaped park.”

Town Council President Lynn Griesemer said the PARC money is a significant grant that will assist Amherst in meeting a need that has been identified.

“I look forward to the process of developing this important new space that will be an exceptional new asset for our children, families and all members of the Amherst community,” Griesemer said. 

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said the project will establish a fully accessible space for people to gather.

While the Berkshire Design Group of Northampton has already fashioned preliminary plans showing what the playground and other aspects could look like, a more extensive design phase, with public input, will begin next spring, with construction to be completed in summer.

The preliminary plans are based on the work of the Kendrick Park Design Advisory Committee, which sought to activate the park with a comprehensive plan. The Cecil Group of Boston completed a full plan for the site several years ago with three distinct lawn areas, including one area for concerts and a skating rink.

In 2012, a natural children’s playground was begun with the installation of a concrete resin rabbit sculpture attached to a rock, but it was stolen less than a week after being put in place.

To move forward on the grant, the town has to provide a match of about $258,000 that will be sought from the Community Preservation Act account.

Bockelman thanked residents, the Leisure Services and Supplemental Education Commission, the Amherst BID, and the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce for their support and guidance on the project.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.