Samantha is a Health Communication Intern at the MA Department of Public Health
Sometimes natural resources for physical activity and recreation are sitting idle in your own backyard – just waiting for a path to be cleared so you can access it!
This was the case for Cook Pond; resting with a 3 mile circumference in the South End of Fall River, MA. Until recently, it had been a hidden gem completely surrounded by old mill buildings, private and public housing, high rises, and Henry Lord Middle School. The Pond is in an area of the city that is highly developed and has little recreational resources for its neighborhoods. So three years ago, Mass in Motion Fall River coordinator Julie Kelly teamed up with the Father Kelly Neighborhood Association and a handful of other community partners to clear the path to better health and wellbeing for Fall River residents.
Given that Mass in Motion Fall River had access to key stakeholders on the East side of the Pond, they decided to start their work at the Henry Lord School South/East and work their way north. “Community partners have been essential in reaching out to the property owners,” Julie explained. The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) has recently turned to improving urban parks and open spaces. “Kelley Whitmore of TTOR has really sunk her teeth into this project.” Mass in Motion Fall River met with the National Guard and National Grid to get their support for the project. The process to gain authorization for access onto their property is well underway. The State’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife already grants access to fisherman, so they were a ready and willing partner. One private owner, BB Construction, also gave permission for access to the shoreline, while dialogue is underway and looking very promising with SouthPointe Rehabilitation Center. The Fall River School Department and Housing Authority are also ready to participate and have been enthusiastic about the project from the start. Assistance has also been provided by SITEC, an engineering firm that has provided pro bono planning and mapping of a portion of Phase, property of the National Guard, BB Construction and National Grid. 1.
Last summer, actual on-the-ground trailmaking was initiated when members of TTOR’s Youth Conservation Corp gathered to remove invasive vines, brush, and trash on the northern most shoreline on Dwelly Street . Residents like Oliver Pires-Acushnet were thrilled by the neighborhood improvement. He told us, “I didn’t know it was here at all. It’s surprising to find a big pond in the middle of the city!”
Fall River residents are coming together and feeling good about contributing to the unveiling of Cook Pond. Local Youth Conservation Corp volunteer Jared Amorin stated “I love how people walking by tell us that we are doing a good job – people are really thankful.” Local Dean Sylvaria said it’s shown her a new part of Fall River that hasn’t been accessible. “I’d like to look back at it one day and know that I helped to make it available.”
This phase of the project, which involved clearing the eastern side of the Pond, is nearly complete. This summer, the Youth Conservation Corps of TTOR will clear a rustic trail from the Henry Lord Middle School all the way up to the MA Fisheries and Wildlife property. The continuation of the pathway northerly awaits the formal permission of the National Guard and National Grid. “Obtaining authorization to use private property is a time consuming, but very rewarding activity” Julie explained. Two more phases are being planned to create a 3-mile walking path around the pond. Hopefully this will bring more people outdoors to enjoy the beauty of Cook Pond, to keep themselves in shape and in good health, while reducing crime and pollution in the area.
Read more about Healthy City Fall River’s efforts to improve the health and quality of life of those living and working in the Scholarship City!