Media Advisory, Contact: Jim Leydon, Communications Director

Springfield to Break Ground on Clifford A. Phaneuf Environmental Center

Event:     Groundbreaking Ceremony Clifford Phaneuf Environmental Center

Date:      Wednesday, April 29, 2015, 11:00 a.m.

Place:      Parking Lot at Porter Lake, Forest Park, 200 Trafton Road

Contact:   Patrick Sullivan, Executive Director, 787-6444

April 29, 2015 -Springfield, MA- Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, School Superintendent Daniel Warwick and Park Commission Chairman Brian Santaniello will be hosting a groundbreaking ceremony for the Clifford Phaneuf Environmental Center.  The event will take place on Wednesday, April 29th at 11:00 a.m. and is open to the public.  The ceremony will be at the Environmental Center’s parking lot at Porter Lake in Forest Park.

The renovation project, estimated at $4.8 million, encompasses a complete renovation of the present facility.  The improvements will include increased classroom space; additional outdoor classroom space; new ADA compliant restrooms; conversion to natural gas; energy efficiencies for heating, cooling and lighting; life safety equipment; a kitchen facility; removal of the septic system; landscape enhancements; and improved access to Porter Lake.

Mayor Sarno stated, “I am proud to be celebrating the 45th anniversary of ECOS with the groundbreaking of this soon to be state of the art facility. Just as this program did for me years ago and for my daughters more recently, it engages our youth at a young age to have an understanding of the importance we play in protecting our environment.  We should all be appreciative that Clifford Phaneuf had the foresight to initiate this program 45 years ago.”

Congressman Richard E. Neal stated, “Forest Park is the crown jewel of Springfield’s impressive public park system. Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, it has been visited by people from around the world since its establishment more than one hundred years ago. With the groundbreaking of the new Clifford A. Phaneuf Environmental Center, the historic skate house on Porter Lake will be preserved for generations to come. And students in Springfield’s public schools will continue to learn about environmental protection in a stunning new facility.”

Daniel Warwick said, “The School Department is pleased to be part of this initiative. ECOS has played a significant part in teaching the importance and understanding of our urban environment.  Everyone always speaks of their recollections of attending ECOS as a child and the school district recognizes its responsibility in developing an appreciation for the science in our environment.  Clifford Phaneuf would be proud that this program is still strong and carrying out his mission started in 1970.” 

Brian Santaniello stated; “The Park Commission is proud to have hosted the ECOS program for the past forty-five years.  All of us need to participate in protecting our open space.  ECOS allows our youth at a young age to be cognizant of their urban environment and gain an appreciation of the importance to protect and respect open space. I look forward to the opportunity to also open the facility to the public on weekends and host events here for everyone to gain insight into what Springfield’s urban environment has to offer and what we all can do to protect it.  Thank you to the Phaneuf family for continuing to share in your father’s dream for our city”

The late Clifford A. Phaneuf Sr., considered the father of Springfield's environmental education, was teaching at Myrtle Street School in Indian Orchard when he became a team leader in the National Teacher Corps in 1969.  He had already taken students out to his farm in Brimfield for summer nature activities. He was friends with Park Superintendent Baldwin Lee and was active in the district’s science department. He collaborated with the head of Elementary Science, Lorraine Ide, and began a pilot program in Forest Park in 1970, the year of the first Earth Day.  The program started at the former Camp SECO grounds and soon moved to the Porter Lake Skate House.  He was able to utilize some of the Teacher Corps’ interns to be the first ECOS teachers.  The former skate house now houses the Environmental Center for Our Schools, which teaches nature studies and wilderness courses to fourth, fifth, and sixth-graders in public schools. Phaneuf was the ECOS coordinator for seventeen years.

In January 1988, the Springfield Park Commission voted to name the building "The Clifford A. Phaneuf Environmental Center.”  A plaque, which will continue to hang in the Center, is inscribed with a poem Phaneuf wrote:

 A Child Asked

Please tell me, teacher, what it's like

to watch a swallow in its flight,

Or to see an eagle soar so high

it fades into the cloudless sky.


Please tell me about a country road

along whose waysides wild flowers grow,

Or can you tell me why lichens die

just because we pollute the sky?


Describe to me a field of green,

with crystal dewdrops reflecting the sun's gleam,

I've heard the elm tree was a majestic thing,

It reached further skyward every spring.


What was a picnic? Were they easy to hold?

The parking lot's pavement is too hot or too cold,

Was there ever a place a child could look

into the bottom of a clear mountain brook?


Did ever wild animals live not in a cage?

Please tell me, teacher, of that other age,

Tell me about the love affair

between the butterflies, the flower, and clean fresh air.


You'll have to tell me, teacher,

because I can't see,

None of these things

are left for me.

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Page last updated:  Thursday, July 19, 2018 03:01 pm