Phase one of the Abbey Brook Revitalization and Restoration project is underway.
Reminder Publishing photo by Tyler Garnet

CHICOPEE — During the May 21 City Council meeting, Chief of Staff Michael Pise announced an additional $50,000 grant award from the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration’s, Department of Fish and Game to support phase one of the Abbey Brook Revitalization project.

This additional grant brings the new total award to $2.24 million toward the project.

The project will take place in three phases. The first phase is currently under construction, which includes the removal of one of the town-owned dams.

Abbey Brook is a small waterway that rises in Springfield and flows through Szot Park before emptying into the Chicopee River.

Abbey Brook’s flow through Szot Park is interrupted by two earthen dams, the Upper and Lower Bemis Pond dams, and have outlived their intended use and have begun to degrade and impact water quality.

Once all three phases are complete, the project will reconnect 1.5 miles of Abbey Brook with the downstream Chicopee River, eliminating the risk to public safety posed by the aging dams, reducing flood risk, improving water quality and enhancing recreational opportunities for the community.

Phase two is currently in the design phase.

The final phase involves the removal of the Upper Bemis Pond dam and further restoration of the Abbey Brook.
Pise said this project has been complicated and costly, but the Planning Department has been able to secure multiple grants to reduce the cost to the taxpayers.

“I think it’s going very well considering projects and the way they’re going in the states. We appreciate our state partners. We’ve done multiple walkthroughs of the project and I know that DER is very happy with the progress being made and results so far,” Pise added.

Planning Director Lee Pouliot said DER has been with the city on this project since day one.

In 2018, the project was designated as a DER Provisional Priority Project with the intention of investigating the possibility of removing both dams and enhancing the Abbey Brook corridor.

Since then, they have added three awards toward construction and Pouliot added he is very appreciative of the grant program and help.

“This further defrays the city’s share of costs in this first phase of construction work for the project,” Pouliot added.

During a walkthrough of the project on Feb. 6, Undersecretary for the Environment Stephanie Cooper said this project can potentially help highlight the governor’s fiscal year 2025 budget proposal for increased funding for the Culvert and Small Bridges Technical Assistance Program.