In 2009, advocates in the neighborhood were able to enjoy some hard-earned new and improved open spaces in the neighborhood, like the new Elmhurst Playground in the Talbot Norfolk Triangle neighborhood, the new “Paul’s Park” at Washburn and Howell Streets in the Polish Triangle, and the improvements to the Geneva Cliffs Urban Wild in Bowdoin-Geneva.
DEHC was involved in a number of these efforts as an integral part of the larger community, and we look forward collaborating for a strong 2010 in the open space arena. Opportunities abound.
With Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN) and other advocates, we’re continuing to push for a bike and walking path connection from the Harbor Walk’s end, near UMass-Boston, to Tenean Beach in Port Norfolk. We’ve taken to calling it the “Missing Link.” It’s become a bit complicated, due to ownership of land near the gas tanks by National Grid, the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) jurisdiction over some of the area, and navigating the new MassDOT agency, which controls the highway right of way. This year we hope to kickstart this process, eventually creating a new and exciting recreation opportunity for Dorchester residents.
We’re also supporting BNAN’s efforts to convince the city to release some of its vacant lots in the neighborhood, now owned by the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND), for urban gardening. The land could either be permanently signed over, or used for five-year chunks of time (that’s about the shortest time wherein the investment of remediating the soil and getting things going can pay off for the neighborhood).
BNAN is also involved in redesigning the Nightingale Gardens at 512 Park St. this year, the first meeting on that work was held earlier this month. Coordinating the effort is BNAN’s Pat Grady, email@example.com.
The Urban Ecology Institute (UEI) is also getting in on the act, supporting a grassroots effort to create “Dakota Gardens” in the Four Corners neighborhood as part of the City Roots program. City Roots also helped create the previously mentioned Paul’s Park and the Elmhurst Playground. UEI is also accepting grant proposals right now for new parks and open spaces, the application information is available at dev.urbaneco.org/city_roots.asp. The winning park projects will likely begin in May.
Adding to the ever-increasing mix is the Fairmount Greenway Coalition, now making considerable headway in its effort to create and link a large number of green spaces along the Fairmount Line commuter rail. Five Community Development Corporations (CDCs) and five community groups are involved in various neighborhoods along the line, which will soon have four new stations between South Station and Morton Street in Mattapan. Their work so far has identified dozens of parcels that might be included in the project.
“It’s not like the Southwest Corridor, it would be threads and loops,” said Joan Tighe, who is overseeing the effort for the Fairmount Collaborative (a coalition of the CDCs involved). “We want to make it as connected as possible. One of the things we’ve talked about is what kind of signage we’d have or maybe little green footprints along the way.”
Some of the vacant lots already identified are owned privately, and some are held by the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development. The next step in the process will be a series of design charrettes overseen by the consultant firm Crosby Schelssinger Smallridge LLC, (the same group that helped design the Columbia Point Master Plan). The first of these charrettes will be Saturday, Feb. 13 in the Community room in the new Dudley Village development at 590 Dudley Street. More meetings will follow for the other four neighborhoods involved.
Boston Parks Advocates, which got its start holding a city council forum in the 2005 elections, has lately expanded its efforts too. The group is actively organizing parks friends groups from all over the city with an eye toward advocating on common causes, like increasing the state’s parks and open space budget.
“We just want elected representatives to know that parks are important to people,” said BPA organizer Lauri Webster. “Everybody understands that there are going to be cuts, but we don’t want to see cuts [to parks] that are disproportionate.”
The BPA is also actively working on a website that will allow parks advocates to communicate with each other. And in March, the group is planning a spring forum where parks advocates can workshop ideas and help forward efforts across the city.
More so perhaps than ever before, open space has become a priority in Dorchester, and we at DEHC applaud all of our partners in these efforts and the community that supports them. Open space encourages more people to walk, play and recreate, not to mention cheering us up every day we pass by. And anything that creates a healthier neighborhood is a DEHC priority.