Fundraising Accelerates for North Shore (MA) Park

Manchester, MA: The campaign to create a new community park on Raymond Street along the Manchester/Gloucester line gained momentum today, with the announcement that local supporters have already raised $40,000 in private pledges for an endowment to permanently fund maintenance of the park. The proposed park site formerly housed the Surf Restaurant and was recently the target of an intensive development proposal. Seventy percent of the land lies in Manchester, and the remaining thirty percent lies in Gloucester. The fundraising campaign was launched just two weeks ago, with the goal of raising $100,000 by April 9.

“This remarkable outpouring of support reflects the strong commitment of Manchester and Gloucester residents to improving their communities,” said Margaret Hughes, president of the Gray Beach Neighborhood Association, which is working together with the Magnolia Neighborhood Association to lead the fundraising drive. “There is a tremendous sense of urgency, due to the short window of time we have to purchase the property and the impending threat of large-scale development.”

“I am pleased with the response we have had from the community,” said John Crowningshield, president of the Magnolia Neighborhood Association. “Based on the level of support we have already received, we are confident that we will reach our goal in order to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

In February, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a nonprofit conservation organization, reached an agreement to purchase the property from its current owner, Debon Realty Trust. Under the terms of the agreement, TPL has until April 9, 2001, to exercise its option to purchase the property for $1.4 million. In addition, TPL estimates demolition, cleanup, planning, design, and park construction will total roughly $650,000. Anonymous private donors have already pledged $1.5 million to the project, and TPL is now working with local residents and officials to raise matching funds and also to raise $100,000 for an endowment to fund maintenance of the park.

At Town Meeting on Monday April 2, Manchester residents will vote on a proposed contribution to the project. Warrant Article 10, which is unanimously supported by the Manchester Board of Selectmen, calls for the Town to authorize funds to help acquire and create the park. The Board has recommended that Manchester contribute $210,000 toward the project.

“This is a great opportunity, not only to transform a dilapidated building in parking lot into open space, but also to reduce flooding and septic problems in the area,” explained Nellie Aikenhead, project manager for TPL. “If a park is created, more than two acres of pavement-the largest paved parcel in the area-will be replaced with trees and grass, the current steep inclines will be regraded, and below ground detention basins will be installed. These changes will virtually eliminate runoff from the site, substantially reducing flooding and septic problems, and protecting the water quality of Kettle Cove.”

Initial design plans call for benches for relaxing, places for kids to play, and grassy areas for taking in ocean views. Because parking is scarce in the area, eight parking spots will be included within park boundaries. If funds can be identified by April 9, TPL plans to move forward with the purchase, oversee the demolition and park construction, and ultimately transfer ownership of the property to the Town of Manchester and the City of Gloucester, or another appropriate entity.

The Trust for Public Land is a national conservation organization dedicated to protecting land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.2 million acres nationwide, including nearly 60,000 acres in New England. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs. For more information, call TPL’s Boston office at (617) 367-6200 or visit