(L-R): Johnny Veras '20, Ayleen Santarin '20 and Shannon Hull '20 relax in the Blackstone Gateway Park. Photo by Avanell Brock
The Blackstone Gateway Park consists of a series of elevated boardwalks and bridges spanning over a half-mile. Photo by Avanell Brock
Deer, birds, wildlife — the new Blackstone Gateway Park, nestled in the Quinsigamond Village neighborhood at the base of Mount St. James, lets students step into the wild via a short trail at the base of Freshman Field.
“The park is definitely a hidden gem near Holy Cross,” says Ayleen Santarin ’20, a chemistry major. “It’s a serene area to walk through and get a break from the hustle and bustle of classes and campus life.”
“You’re in the second-largest city in New England, but you feel like you’re in the middle of the woods,” says Massachusetts State Rep. Dan Donahue ’09, a lifelong resident of the village and one of the many alumni who championed the project.
The new park, over two decades in the planning, includes a half-mile linear park with walking paths, elevated boardwalks and a trio of bridges that cross the Middle River as it runs into the Blackstone. A full schedule of activities is already underway, including adaptive kayaking and bird watching.
“I love that the bridges in the park are made of recycled materials,” Santarin says. “I also love how close the park is to campus. When you walk along the trails, you’re immersed in nature, but it feels like you’ve gone so far away even though it’s just down the street.”
The adjacent visitor’s center is just as striking. With its saw-tooth roof and steel structure designed to nod back to the area’s early factories — the Washburn & Moen Manufacturing Company operated on the site for years — the center features historical exhibits, interactive displays and a space for events.
The College helped fund the Blackstone project, including contributing toward the salary of the executive director of Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, contributing to the visitor center’s first year of operations in honor of the College’s 175th anniversary, and donating a key parcel of land for the park entrance.
“We’re proud to be part of the neighborhood and the city,” says Jamie Hoag ’98, director of government and community relations at Holy Cross. The College community is already eyeing the space for gatherings. A food festival and movie nights are in the offing — sure bets to draw a campus crowd into the wild.
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