Parks department takes first steps toward Riley Park revisions

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Plans call for the park's "zones" -- based on age and interests -- to be expanded. A key part of the plan is to route parking to one area along Apple Street. "What this does is it puts the park back to nature, puts it back to people..." one planner said. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — Greenfield’s parks department is beginning to refine plans for the future of Riley Park and is aiming to include features that appeal to all age groups.

Alyssa Prazeau, a partner at Context Design, recently presented a vision for the future of the park to the Greenfield Board of Parks and Recreation. The design was created for the parks department by PROS Consulting and Context.

Five baseball fields in Riley Park are no longer being used by the Greenfield Youth Baseball Association, allowing for new uses of the space. The consultants aimed to create a design that provided activities for all demographics, expanding on the park’s current use of “zones” for specific age groups, while also accommodating the park’s location in a floodplain.

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Changes to the park will come after the recent addition of a new splash pad and a $3.3 million renovation to Riley Park Pool.

Prazeau said Greenfield’s parks system has potential to be highly interconnected, especially along Brandywine Creek, which flows through the park.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for pedestrian parkways within your city because of Brandywine Creek,” Prazeau said. “I think that’s a very important factor while we’re looking at Riley, to make sure that we don’t lose sight of that fact and those connection possibilities.”

Parks officials have been looking for some time at a north-south trail that would connect Brandywine Park on the south side of Greenfield with Riley Park and even Wilson Park, which abuts Interstate 70 on the north side of the city.

Other plans for the park would include “expanding the Elmore Center uses to include more adult activities: multiplay areas, a gathering space for events or movies in the park, new construction to do seasonal ice rinks, farmers’ markets and other special events,” Prazeau said. “And we see that happening with not just an outdoor space but a building addition as well, potentially.”

Zones in the park would include a playground for 2- to 5-year-olds and one for 5- to 12-year-olds; an active sports area aimed at teens and young adults; and an area focused on exercise and wellness for older adults. Other possible features would be a sculpture or other art piece located near the park’s entrance and a “natural water play” area that would invite kids to play in Brandywine Creek.

“We want to encourage kids to get their hands dirty,” Prazeau said.

The plan would confine parking to one area of the park located along Apple Street, though there would be more parking spots available than in the park’s current lots. Other spaces would be filled in with new plant growth.

“What this does is it puts the park back to nature, puts it back to people, and it takes the car out of it,” Prazeau said.

Greenfield parks director Ellen Kuker said the “vision plan” represented the first stage of designing the new Riley Park.

“We had an open mind to what the design would look like,” Kuker said.

Kuker said the department intends to make changes to the plan as it decides which amenities to include and where they should be located. They will also consider what parking arrangement makes the most sense for park visitors.

The department will hire a consulting firm for the next stage of the design plan but has not yet decided whether to continue working with PROS and Context, Kuker said. The department plans to host public meetings seeking feedback on the project later this year.