LightHouse students have taken on the project of manifesting the restoration of Soucey Park, the small, neglected park on Clemente Street right near our building. Soucey Park is currently in serious disrepair, and a blight in the neighborhood. We’ve been spending part of every Friday so far this year focusing on how we can change that.
The best thing about this project, for me, is how slow it is. Not that I wouldn’t love to see the park renovated tomorrow… But the real world doesn’t work like that, and what a great opportunity for our students to learn how change actually works. It IS possible. But it’s slow. Soucey is a public park, so we have to make an alliance with Parks and Rec and the Mayor’s Office, and convince them to move this project closer to the top of their very long lists.
We need to connect with the community around the park to hear their input and to convince them in joining us to make their voices heard and make improvements happen. We need to work with an architect and with the Department of Conservation Resources to plan the design of the park, from the layout to the tree and bush choices. Many steps!
And it’s happening. We’ve had many, many conversations with all of those groups over the last eight weeks. The teens have collected over 100 signatures on a petition to improve the park, and we’ve met with the Holyoke Economic Development Office as well as Parks and Rec. Twice the teens have been to the park to clean up the trash. The students have photographed and documented the current situation there, and made a series of drawings of design possibilities.
Next steps: Work with Joseph Krupczynski, UMass Architecture professor (and teacher at LightHouse) to finalize designs. Parks and Rec is expecting our drawings by the end of next week, at which point they will work with their in-house people to make a cost analysis and then schedule a public input meeting. Exciting!
If the project is funded, the money becomes available in July. Hopefully the work can be completed over the summer, and this time next year we will be in awe of the beautiful new park in our neighborhood! Change is slow, but it is possible. What a great learning experience for our students. We are very grateful to City Hall for being so open and supportive of our teens’ initiative.