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AGAWAM — Renovations to turn Tuckahoe Turf Farm into the newly renamed Still Brook Park are three months from being finished, Mayor Christopher Johnson said recently. He said he hopes to open the large passive recreation park in Feeding Hills in July.

“It’s been a somewhat difficult spring construction season, with all the rain that we’ve gotten, but they’re still on track to get it done in time,” he said.

The cost of the project is around $6 million, Johnson said. It was previously reported as $6.2 million, but the City Council approved an appropriation of $260,000 for park amenities in December. The money will come from grants, Community Preservation Act funds, Tennessee Gas mitigation funds, and $3.4 million in borrowing.

Fifty-five acres of the property has been leased for 20 years to Consolidated Edison to host an array of solar panels. The solar lease payments will cover the majority of the anticipated cost of the bonding, Johnson said.

“The net cost to the taxpayers, if you will, is relatively minimal, especially for a park of this size,” he said.

He added that the 292-acre Feeding Hills parcel is the second largest in Agawam after Robinson State Park.

Johnson said the park will have two entrances, one accessible by hiking and biking and one accessible by car. The car entrance will lead to a parking lot and trails. Recently, the contractor installed a culvert that will support the driveway, he said. Rainy weather meant the crew had to deal with high water levels, but they still successfully installed the culvert, he said.

Last year, Tennessee Gas funded work to clear invasive plants around the pond in the middle of the property, as well as temporarily stabilizing Nine Lot Dam, which impounds it. Nine Lot Dam has now been fully replaced, Johnson said. Crews are working on cleaning the pond, installing a ramp for kayakers and canoers, and setting up picnic areas around it, he said.

Once the asphalt production plants reopen from their winter break, Johnson said, the contractor will finish paving the driveway and parking lot. Other immediate next steps include work on the trails and a large meadow.

“I think people will be pleasantly surprised when it opens,” he said.

In the meantime, the town is fetching the prices of an amenities package that includes benches, picnic tables and a viewing platform. The latter caused a rift among city councilors in December for its estimated $160,000 price tag. The councilors voted 7-4 not to appropriate CPA funds for it.

Johnson said once the town has the prices of amenities, it will decide which ones the park will have. At opening, the park will have only “basic amenities,” he said. Larger ones, such as volleyball playing areas or a half basketball court, will be added over time.

“We want to see what people are looking for,” he said.

The town is also working on signs. There will be a sign at the entrance, a trail map and an informational sign about the history of the property.

Now ‘Still Brook Park’

At its April 1 meeting, the City Council unanimously voted to name the new park Still Brook Park, after the brook that runs through the property. Town officials worked on the name before Johnson’s term started this January, he said. Both the councilors and Johnson agreed it was the most appropriate name.

Historical Commission Chair David Cecchi said the name of Still Brook came from a cider distillery operated by Artemas Beebe in the mid-1800s. Before then, it was known as Pond Brook, because it drained Leonard Pond.

The Leonard family built a gristmill on Still Brook in the late 1700s, and operated it for close to 100 years. It was “more like a barn, a small operation,” Cecchi said, possibly with employees, but he didn’t know how many. The mill provided farmers in the mostly agricultural town with a way to turn their grains into flour.

“There wasn’t easy accessibility [to consumer goods], so people needed to be self-sufficient and these small gristmills provided that service in these towns,” Cecchi said.

In the 1800s, the Tuckahoe property was part of Hinsdale Smith’s tobacco farms. According to a draft informational sign designed by Cecchi, the property hosted tobacco farms from Smith, the Cuba-Connecticut Tobacco Company, and Hatheway-Steane. In the 1980s, it was run by the Rhode Island-based Tuckahoe Turf Farms. The town purchased the property in the 1990s.

Johnson said the new name allows the town to order signs for the park and to stop referring to it by the name of a business that left town decades ago.

“The town bought it nearly 30 years ago. It’s been a long time coming, but at least now we have a new name,” he said.

tlederer@thereminder.com | + posts