Nothing on the Greenway is easy. Just ask the Friends of the North End Parks (FOTNEP) as they push for a new horticultural plan on the Greenway parks in the North End. FOTNEP says it is ready to get going right now, while the Conservancy wants more time to consider the impacts of the new plantings.
FOTNEP met with the Greenway Conservancy this week to discuss plans to plant 12,000 daffodil bulbs and replace the deteriorating boxwood and arborvitae plants in the existing Greenway plant beds.
Instead of the green boxwood hedges, FOTNEP President Nathan Swain said, “We want less green and more Adrian Bloom-like sweeping, four-season colored plants.” Several members in the new Friends group mentioned that they are modeling themselves after the Friends of Christopher Columbus Park, a successful community non-profit that works with the City of Boston to maintain and contribute to that public park.
The burgeoning Friends of the North End Parks group is willing to do the Greenway plantings for free, through their own donations and fundraising. The group plans to have weekly volunteer teams to help maintain the new plantings. But first, they need the Conservancy’s permission to get the plants in the ground.
The Conservancy’s reaction was cautious, indicating a desire for collaboration, but without a commitment or approval in hand. “I am not in a position tonight to give a yes or no answer,” said Nancy Brennan, Executive Director of the Greenway Conservancy. “We only received the plan documents last week,” she said.
Conservancy executives acknowledged the current plantings have not lived up to expectations, with some extensive disease and bare spots. Philosophically, the Conservancy agreed with FOTNEP that there is room for improvement.
Time is ticking and a key date is October 25th when the group is expected to pickup 2,000 daffodils as part of the Mayor’s bulb program. The group said they could secure another 10,000 daffodil bulbs if they received permission to plant from the Conservancy. The bulbs need to be planted this Fall to have a Spring bloom.
Brennan listed three issues that would need to be considered by the Conservancy. A major re-planting might need her Board of Directors approval and the next board meeting is not scheduled until February 2013. She also requested a community workshop on the new plantings to ensure “this is a broadly accepted approach by stakeholders.” As a third consideration, she said the Conservancy would have to ensure the plan was financially sustainable.
The Greenway’s Superintendent of Horticulture, Stuart Shillaber, also shared his concerns at the meeting regarding the aggressive timeline for major changes this Fall. The Conservancy would need to move some of the existing plantings to other parts of the Greenway. In addition, the irrigation is turned off in mid-November. His preference was to get started this Fall with some easy plantings and gear up for a major effort in April 2013.
The 15 FOTNEP members in attendance were frustrated with the Conservancy’s lackluster response. “We’ve met seven times since July,” said Diane Valle of the Friends group. FOTNEP has recently presented in front of both neighborhood groups, NEWNC and NEWRA, and received a positive response to the plan. The heads of both groups were present at the meeting this week with the Conservancy.
It was carefully noted by FOTNEP that there is no structural change or redesign of the Greenway parks, just the horticulture. David Kubiak, FOTNEP Secretary said, “We know the residents like the fountains and the green lawns. We also know they want more shade and a more beautiful approach to the plantings.” NEWNC President, Stephen Passacantilli added, “Folks are anxious to get their hands in the ground and the group effort would likely take on a life of its own.”
At the end of the meeting, there was an agreement to keep talking. Despite some tense moments, the two sides agreed to meet on the Greenway next Monday, October 15th at 2:00 pm, to further scope out the plan. The Conservancy executives said they prefer a “light touch” this Fall with some daffodils, but would further study the plan and forward an answer to FOTNEP shortly after next week’s meeting in the field.