This month, City Councilors Debora Coelho, Brad Markey, Joe Lopes, Scott Lima, Hugh Dunn, Maria Giesta, Brian Gomes, and Ian Abreu voted to reconsider funding recommended by the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) to allocate $370,000 to purchase, protect, and create parking and gardens on 1.63 acres of land directly across from The Sawmill’s entrance on Mill Road in New Bedford. The City Council will vote again to approve funding for the project at its next meeting on Dec. 13.
The land purchase would formally expand The Sawmill into New Bedford, ensuring that the city’s North End will always be the front door to the growing Acushnet River Reserve.
The Sawmill has become a treasured neighborhood destination for an estimated 500 visitors a week – ranging from school groups to families to individuals who want to take a peaceful walk through nature just steps from the city. The park’s users are primarily New Bedford residents, even though the reserve is located entirely within Acushnet’s town limits.
Once purchased, the Coalition will improve safe access to The Sawmill for school children, people will mobility impairments, and those looking to explore the river by canoe or kayak. Safety improvements will include a larger parking area with room for two school buses and an ADA-accessible crosswalk so all visitors can safely cross Mill Road from the parking area to The Sawmill’s entrance.
The expanded Sawmill land will also become home to a community garden space for students from nearby Jireh Swift Elementary School and neighborhood residents. The community gardens will be developed and managed in partnership with the Marion Institute’s GROW Education project, which uses gardening to advance STEM curriculum and incorporate healthy living skills in the New Bedford Public Schools.
In addition, the project will preserve 1.5 acres of forested land next to the parking area, forever protecting these natural features in a densely developed part of the city. Once purchased, the Coalition will remove trash and invasive plants that currently litter this wooded area.
New Bedford voters adopted the Community Preservation Act in 2014 to create a dedicated fund for projects to protect open space, preserve historic resources, and expand community housing and outdoor recreational activities. The CPC administers the local Community Preservation fund, recommending projects to the City Council for funding approval. The Sawmill expansion project is the city’s only open space protection project in FY18.