CHICOPEE – Plans are progressing for the city to build the Post-9/11 and Service Dog Memorial Park on Westover Road.
The memorial park is gaining momentum after years of city review. Veterans Services Director Stephanie Shaw said the project was originally started by the Veterans Services office nearly a decade ago. After two years of grassroots fundraising efforts, Shaw said the memorial park was finally derailed for a variety of reasons.
Once Shaw joined management in the summer of 2017, former mayor Richard Kos tapped his department to revive the project. The property was originally part of Westover before being donated as a surplus asset to the city.
“I looked at the space and the previous committee’s proposals and plans. I asked them to meet again. We thought about it and found that direction,” Shaw said.
Due to the scale of the project, Shaw approached the city’s planning and parks and recreation departments to become involved in the project.
“We started collaborating in 2018 on the possibilities of this space and working together to design it, fund it, and find the necessary support,” Shaw said.
Planning director Lee Pouliot said he considered the project one of his favorite activities since joining the ministry. He expressed that the memorial park defies the traditional definition in its multipurpose design.
“Instead of having a traditional memorial, this project represents an experience and a space to celebrate service in the post-9/11 region. It’s a space to reflect and a space to celebrate, which I think is very unique,” Pouliot said.When completed, the Memorial Park space will be the first park in Ward 1 and the only dog park in the city.
Pouliot shared that the city secured the construction budget for the project through local, state and federal funds. The federal contribution of $415,000 comes from a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant awarded in October 2021. Total construction costs are estimated to be approximately $800,000.
Moving forward, Pouliot said the planning department is looking to find a contractor for the project.
“We are looking to put out a call for tenders in the early fall so that we can recruit a contractor before the end of the year,” Pouliot said.
Pouliot explained that the construction of the project should be minimal because the city designs the park around its existing typography.
“There is very little intense construction that needs to happen to make this park a reality. It’s a great restraint project with a very strong message,” Pouliot said.
Mayor John Vieau expects the developing memorial park to become a central Chicopee attraction.
“It’s really unique and different from anything we’ve seen traditionally. I expect there will be field trips and kids coming from all over,” Vieau said.
The mayor stressed that the area will serve as an important educational tool, allowing Gen Z youth to learn about post-9/11 conflicts that they were unaware of when they occurred.