Finding common ground: Sunderland to christen Riverside Park July 13

  • The Riverside Park Project includes a walking path and an overlook deck along the river on School Street in Sunderland. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • The Riverside Park Project behind the Town Hall on School Street in Sunderland. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • The Riverside Park Project includes a walking path and an overlook deck along the river on School Street in Sunderland. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 02, 2019

SUNDERLAND — It may have taken 301 years, but Sunderland will soon have something to serve as its town green or central public park.

The town has planned July 13 celebration of the opening of Riverside Park, an 8-acre recreational site along the Connecticut River. The park, behind Town Hall, packages playing fields and the veterans’ memorial into an area encompassed by a ¾-mile pedestrian loop connected to the Sunderland Public Library, as well as to a boat ramp and to a trail running along the Deerfield River.

“It’s very exciting,” said Sara Snyder, chairwoman of the Community Pathways Committee, which spearheaded the park’s development. “We’ve been working on it for a long time.”

The park is five years in the making, Snyder said.

The July 13 event, which is funded by donations, is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting with state Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, followed by a day of free activities for people of all ages. The festivities will be capped off with a 6:30 p.m. outdoor concert by The Nields, funded by the Sunderland Cultural Council and the Sunderland Public Library.

The park, with its picturesque view of Mount Sugarloaf, was designed by Berkshire Design Group of Northampton and is accessible to people of all abilities. The land is being placed in permanent conservation with the help of Franklin Land Trust.

Snyder said the park is made possible through the hard work of Community Pathways Committee members.

“It’s a wonderful, very talented group of people,” she said. “There was a lot of synergy and it wouldn’t have happened without that dream team, I think.”

One of those people was Sunderland Town Administrator Sherry Patch, who said in a statement that volunteers have spent hundreds of hours over the five years to make this project a reality.

“Riverside Park has been a true community endeavor,” she said. “We are excited to bring community together on July 13 to celebrate this collective gift, which will enhance the town and region for years to come.”

Patch also said contributions came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs, the state Department of Fish and Game, the Connecticut River Conservancy, the Sunderland Conservation Commission and Community Preservation Act Fund, Brent Hale Design, All States Materials Group, and Delta Sand & Gravel.

Snyder said 12.5 percent of the project’s costs came from Sunderland taxpayers’ CPA surcharge. She noted the park wouldn’t have been possible without the town’s adoption of the CPA program in 2010.

Sunderland Library Director Katherine Hand said she is pleased with the park’s vicinity to her building.

“The addition of the park truly makes School Street the heart of our town. I already see many people meet friends at the library and then take a walk through the park together,” she said, adding that the library can utilize the park for public programs. “We see Riverside Park as a new extension of the library. We hope to offer story walks along the river, storytelling sessions on the river overlook deck, and many other programs that connect the library and the community with the natural beauty of our town.”

Snyder mentioned development will continue, as the town is working to redesign School Street as part of its Complete Streets initiative.

Other activities at the July 13 event are expected to include a guided paddle with the Connecticut River Conservancy at 10 a.m. (advance registration is required at bit.ly/2JbVqv6); a river walk with Sarah Pirtle and David Brule to honor the site’s Native American history; boat safety checks by the U.S. Coast Guard; and demonstrations of composting and other eco-friendly practices by the Center for EcoTechnology.

State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, is expected to welcome guests before The Nields’ concert. Food, drinks and ice cream will be available for purchase.