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Neighborhood funding provides youth with positive, safe, healthy activities

Childhood memories of playing hockey with my three younger brothers at a local rink in Worcester flashed through my mind recently as I entered the Emmons Horrigan O’Neil Memorial Rink in Charlestown.  Whether it was after school or on the weekends, trips to the skating rink provided an opportunity for quality recreation while building teamwork and sportsmanship skills.

In Charlestown, I met a gentleman with longtime roots in the neighborhood and close ties to the local rink.  As he reminisced about memories coaching youth hockey over the past several decades, he shared a story of a Charlestown mother describing how the hockey program saved her child’s life.  Her son had lost his brother and father to violence, but the hockey program at the O’Neil Memorial Rink surrounded him with positive, adult role models who reinforced in him that through hard work and commitment good things can happen on the ice. 

They also told the hockey player that the same attributes or skills can also be applied in the classroom and other settings.  These lessons and those taught to him by his mother allowed this young man to go on to college and a successful career. 

Governor Patrick and I want all children to have access to a safe and bright future.  We have a moral obligation and responsibility to build a stronger Commonwealth for future generations, and a stronger Commonwealth means investing today in education, innovation, and infrastructure. 

Investing in infrastructure includes improving the quality of our park and recreational facilities for youth and families to enjoy.  Through the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), our administration continues to support investments in more than 400 properties and recreational activities across the state.

When I visited the O’Neill Memorial Rink in Charlestown, I joined Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty, Sen. Sal DiDimenico, and the community to celebrate the installation of energy efficiency improvements at the rink.  With $625,000 in federal stimulus funding awarded to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, that rink as well as the Devine Memorial Rink in Dorchester and rinks in South Boston, Hyde Park, and Weymouth were able to improve ceilings and other needs over the last year.  This investment will increase energy efficiency at each rink, delivering significant cost savings to support programs like Learn to Skate, public skating, and youth hockey programs.

We are making similar investments in DCR facilities across the Commonwealth to protect, promote, and enhance our communities. We invested more than $300,000 to rebuild and improve the McMorrow Playground and Ball Fields in Dorchester.  Once reconstruction is complete, there will be new bleachers, bullpens, backstops, and equipment storage. 

In neighboring Roxbury, we worked closely with local elected officials, community leaders, and residents to resurrect the former Melnea Cass Outdoor Skating Rink.  After the rink had remained dormant for more than 20 years, we made it a priority to revitalize the facility. Now, after investing $4.2 million, the Melnea A. Cass Recreational Complex is a four-season indoor facility.  Adjacent to the Melnea A. Cass Memorial Swimming Pool, the complex provides youth with a wide range of programs including tennis, martial arts, track, and soccer.  The facility also hosts special events and meetings for the community.

Investments in our neighborhoods provide positive, safe, and healthy activities for our youth.  I had the chance to experience this as a young kid playing hockey in Worcester, and I am committed to supporting parks and recreational facilities in Boston and communities across the Commonwealth. 
Timothy P. Murray is lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.