WILMINGTON, MA — Hundreds of Wilmington residents came out to celebrate the official opening of the Yentile Farm Recreational Facility on Saturday, May 13, 2017.
Town and state officials praised the project, which has been well-received by residents and came in on time and more than $500,000 under budget.
“The Yentile Farm Recreational Facility shows both a reverence for the past and an optimism for the future,” said State Senator Bruce Tarr. “This iconic property will now be available for everyone for all generations forever.”
“This place really takes your breathe away,” said State Representative Jim Miceli. “What’s great about this facility is it will be enjoyed by a lot of folks of ALL ages. The Yentile Farm Development Committee has done an excellent job. Congratulations to all of the local folks and thousands of taxyapers who made this possible.”
“We talk about family values. Well, Wilmington values families,” said State Representative Ken Gordon. “I am proud of this community for creating this space.”
The town received citations from both the Massachusetts Senate and the Massachusetts House of Representatives, in recognition of the facility’s opening.
“I simply want to say THANK YOU. Thank you to the residents for supporting this idea, every step of the way,” said Board of Selectman Chair Mike Champoux. “I look forward to coming here with my daughter one day and playing with her grandkids. And I look forward to the day she comes with her daughter and plays with her grandkids. That’s the type of investment we’ve made here.”
“We’ve got ourselves a park!… The Yentile Farm Recreational Facility will become a signature destination here in town,” said Yentile Farm Development Committee Chair Judy O’Connell. “It will provide active recreation, passive recreation, community events, and so much more to the residents of the town. [Today’s opening] is a milestone moment in the town’s history. I hope you’ll be able visit often.”
O’Connell thanked a long list of individuals and entities involved in the successful project, including:
- Former Town Manager Michael Caira
- Current Town Manager Jeff Hull
- Former Assistant Town Manager Kendra Amarl
- Current Assistant Town Manager Dee Casey
- Yentile Farm Development Committee
- Town Engineer Paul Alunni
- Planning Director Valerie Gingrich
- Green International
- Green Acres Landscaping
- State Rep. Jim Miceli, State Rep. Ken Gordon, State Senator Bruce Tarr
- Current Board of Selectmen, plus former members Mike Newhouse & Lou Cimaglia
- Current and former Finance Committee members
- Town employees that helped make the Opening House possible, including Karen Campbell and the Recreation Department, the Police Department, and the DPW.
- Rotary Club, Sons of Italy, and the Community Fund for providing food and music at the Open House.
- Members of the Yentile Family
- The Friends of 9 Cross Street (fundraising non-profit organization trying to raise $1 million for the project)
- Sponsors of the Friends of 9 Cross Street, including the Wilmington Sons of Italy, who have pledged $100,000 towards the project, plus We’re One Wilmington and the Wilmington Youth Soccer Association.
To express her appreciation to her fellow Yentile Farm Development Committee members, O’Connell quoted Mr. Rogers: “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” O’Connell referred to the Yentile Farm Development Committee members her “heroes.”
“People used to ask why Wilmington can’t have an Ipswich River Park [like North Reading] or a Livingston Street Park [like Tewksbury]. Now you can say we have one,” said former Town Manager Mike Caira. “This is a citizens’ park both in terms of people and tax dollars. It will be enjoyed for generations to come.”
Caira recounted how the town came into possession of the land. The town first attempted to buy the land in the early 2000s after the Yentile Farm shut down. The town was unsuccessful in their efforts at that time, but tried again after the condos that were supposed to be built on the site never materialized and the land went into foreclosure.
Caira recalled negotiating with Century Bank over the sale of the land in 2011.
“I started at $1 million. The bank started at $5 million. We decided to meet at a number in between. The town wound purchasing the land for $1.1 million. Even President Trump may be proud of that negotiation,” joked Caira. Residents would go on to approve the funds for the purchase at the May 2012 Town Meeting.
“People of Wilmington, this is your project,” said Town Manager Jeff Hull. “Maintaining the people’s trust can be a hard challenge for government these days…. We were able to engender such trust through this project.”
Hull thanked the property’s neighbors, including Textron and the owners of Webber Terrace, for their cooperation and support of the project. Hull also thanked many of the individuals previously mentioned by O’Connell, including Valerie Gingirch and Paul Alunni.
“[Town Engineer] Paul Alunni is an incredible ‘details guy’ and passionate about getting everything right. He made sure we got what we paid for,” said Hull. Alunni essentially served as the Owner Project Manager for the town.
The ceremony ended with Yentile Farm Development Committee Chair Judy O’Connell and Selectman Chair Mike Champoux, surrounded by Committee members and Selectmen, cutting the ribbon to mark the facility’s official opening.
The event continued for another four hours with fun activities for families on the event green, basketball courts, and turf field. The Wilmington Rotary Club served hot dogs and lemonade, the Wilmington Sons of Italy handed out ice cream, and the Wilmington Community Fund provided a DJ.
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