Friends Group Horticulture Plan Rejected by Greenway Conservancy

At this week’s meeting of the Friends of the North End Parks (FOTNEP), the mood was gloomy after their community-based horticulture plan for the North End Greenway parks was rejected by the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservancy. Still, the volunteer group of neighbors re-committed themselves to upgrade the plantings in and around Parcels 8 and 10.

In late January, FOTNEP members met with the Greenway Conservancy operations and horticulture staff to review a plan submitted last Fall by the Friends group.

FOTNEP President Nathan Swain reported that the Conservancy has refused their free offer to create “four seasons of color” through upgraded horticulture, inspired by the renowned landscape architect Adrian Bloom. (See FOTNEP’s plan in this video.)

Instead of the free plan, the Greenway Conservancy intends to hire its own landscape architectural firm to design a new plan at a cost of roughly $15,000. On the same day of the field meeting with FOTNEP, the Conservancy published a blog post describing its plan focused on new and reconfigured trees to bring more shade to the parks. “Frequenters to the North End’s sunny lawns can look forward to more refreshing spots of shade thanks to the creative re-thinking of spaces and a few new trees,” said the post.

FOTNEP members did not object to the Conservancy’s plan to add shade, but were disappointed that it did not include any improvements to the blighted boxwoods or other planting beds. Because the Conservancy has not budgeted any new horticulture for the North End, its Board will have to approve the new expenditure in a process expected to also involve community meetings over the next year.

“It’s all about control,” said Swain. He believes the Conservancy is more comfortable paying for a landscape architect that will report only to them rather than the community-at-large. At its own meetings, the Conservancy has publicly ignored the Friends group focusing instead on areas it can boast about such as the Wharf District Parks.

Many members of the Friends group expressed disbelief as to why the Conservancy continues to thwart their volunteer efforts and pursue a perceived waste of money on more consultants and landscape architects. Swain said there was little to cheer from their meeting because “the Conservancy offered nothing other than more meetings.” The group decided to continue to lobby the Conservancy so that the Friends group can participate in the North End Parks. They will write a letter to request time to present at an upcoming Conservancy Board meeting.

While it waits for Conservancy approval, FOTNEP members decided to create plans for various planting beds on the side or adjacent to the Greenway this year. Many of these surrounding planting beds are not under the guise of the Conservancy.

The group also reviewed the public reaction to the Conservancy’s failed Winter Lights program and how the disco balls were installed without community input on the North End Parks.

“Other groups are starting to form around other parts of the Greenway,” said member Ken Rowland. He also pointed out how the Armenian Heritage Park bid the maintenance of its own parcel to a private company rather than the Conservancy. It was also discussed how the Conservancy’s lease is up for renewal at the end of June 2013. MassDOT has informed the Conservancy that it intends to phase out public State funding to the non-profit within five years, adding uncertainty to its future.

FOTNEP members also discussed how they would like to revive some of the original Greenway plan where flowers at different points referred to past historical periods. Without any signs, much of the symbolism in the parks is not apparent to the public including references to the old Grist Mill and the point of the original Bulfinch Triangle.

After an extended discussion, FOTNEP Secretary David Kubiak summarized the group’s action points:

  • Plan a Spring 2013 FOTNEP event to celebrate the daffodil blooms from last Fall’s bulb planting.
  • Create a plan to upgrade the flowers and plants around the North End Greenway parks that are not under the control of the Conservancy.
  • Write a letter to the Conservancy asking for FOTNEP to be included on an upcoming Board meeting agenda.

FOTNEP has meetings every other Wednesday, 6:30 pm at the Mariner’s House, 11 North Square and invites those interested to join them. The next meeting is scheduled for February 20, 2013.