Monday, September 26, 2016
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, Park Commission Chairman Brian Santaniello, and Patrick Sullivan, Executive Director of Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management broke ground today on the future Gunnery Sergeant Thomas J. Sullivan Park on South Branch Parkway. The family of Gunnery Sergeant Sullivan was also in attendance for the ceremony.
The park’s creation is due to the obtainment of a $400,000 Parkland Acquisition and Renovations for Communities (PARC) grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The landscape of South Branch Park was dramatically altered by the 2011 tornado and through PARC grant improvements the area will be restored for recreational use by city residents. The total budget for the project is $650,000.00 ($400,000 PARC/$250,000 City).
This grant is part of Mayor Sarno’s commitment, along with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, to rebuild Springfield and generate improvements in areas affected by the 2011 tornado. The City, in conjunction with the East Forest Park Civic Association and area residents, developed a master plan for South Branch Park. The park is being renamed to honor Gunnery Sergeant Thomas J. Sullivan and his heroic actions in Chattanooga, TN in July of 2015. Gunnery Sergeant Sullivan Park will offer 12 acres of park land with site improvements such as a kayak/canoe launch, accessible walking paths, benches, lookouts and a small parking lot; as well as a memorial dedicated to Sgt. Sullivan. The parks’ tree canopy will also be restored as well as irrigation systems, and wildflower mixes will be planted.
“The resiliency and patience exhibited by the residents of East Forest Park throughout our recovery efforts is greatly appreciated. I would like to express my gratitude to the Commonwealth for continuing to provide funding to renovate our neighborhoods. This is one more piece of the puzzle in restoring the open space affected by the devastating tornado,” said Mayor Domenic J. Sarno. “I am honored that the Park Commission dedicated this park land in honor of Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Sullivan. Gunnery Sergeant Sullivan was a resident of East Forest Park and a Marine Veteran who protected our country and never forgot his Springfield heritage.”
“The official motto of the United States Marine Corps is ‘Semper Fidelis,’ or always faithful. And no one respected the principles, values and ethics of the Marines more than Gunnery Sergeant Tommy Sullivan. A son of Springfield, he wore the uniform with distinction and paid the ultimate sacrifice defending the country he loved. Today we break ground on a park in his old neighborhood of East Forest Park that will be named in his honor. It is a fitting tribute to a local hero and permanent reminder of his extraordinary courage,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal.
Park Commission Chairman Brian Santaniello said, “The Park Commission would like to thank the residents of East Forest Park for playing a vital role in the planning process for this grant. The success of any project depends on neighborhood support and input. We look forward to the continued improvements scheduled to take place over the next year and opening the park a year from now.”
“I am proud of our city in that we are able to answer the concerns of the residents of East Forest Park in ensuring the restoration of this park land. This project will ensure that in time the new trees will grow and mature, renovating the landscape and erasing the memory of the tornado. This project will also help to restore lost wildlife habitats and improve access to trails. Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Sullivan Park will allow neighborhood residents an opportunity to enjoy the scenic beauty this site has to offer,” said Executive Director of PBRM Patrick Sullivan.
Joe Sullivan, brother of GnySgt Sullivan stated, “Our family is extremely excited and humbled that Tommy is being honored by the residents of Springfield in this way. The location in the East Forest Park neighborhood that Tommy grew up in, and at a waterfront where he actually played is so meaningful to us. Tommy, of course wouldn't want any of this recognition – to him, he was just doing his job. This park will maintain his legacy and sacrifice not just for us but for future generations, so that they may know and understand what it is to be a hero. Thank you to Mayor Sarno, all the city and state officials who all helped make this possible, and especially the residents of the City Springfield for their constant support.”