Greenway Community Workshop Brings North Enders & Conservancy Staff Together for Brainstorming Session

New Greenway Conservancy (GC) Board Members from the North End, John Pregmon and Robyn Reed, along with several Conservancy staff members, hosted a well-attended community workshop. The goal, according to Pregmon was to help “serve as catapult and bridge” between the community and the non-profit that manages the North End Parks. The Greenway parks have been open for about 4 years. “We’re all still learning and the park is still ‘becoming’,” said COO and Acting Executive Director Jesse Brackenbury.

Greenway Conservancy Board Member from NEWNC, John Pregmon (left), welcomes residents to the workshop along with Robyn Reed from NEWRA and Conservancy COO Jesse Brackenbury (right).

Held at the Fairmont Battery Wharf Hotel in the North End on April 2, 2013, Brackenbury introduced four primary subject areas for discussion: (1) Park Uses, including furniture, (2) Maintenance, including fountains, (3) Horticulture and (4), Programs & Events. After brief presentations by Conservancy staff members, breakout sessions were held where ideas were subsequently recapped.

The North End parks are well-used by residents and tourists. Adding more shade was a high priority area of improvement identified by attendees. On the grass lawns, the Conservancy plans to add 5 or 6 shade trees along the edges this Spring. This would still leave large swathes of open space for sunbathing on what is sometimes called the “North End Beach.”

The pergola in the North End Parks has created some confusion, according to Linda Jonash, Director of Planning and Design. “It was originally designed as a large porch and architectural feature, not specifically to provide shade.” The high configuration and angling of the structure limits the shade potential with various types of coverings. However, the Conservancy has researched large green umbrellas that could work, according to Jonash. An artist feature on the pergola might also be a way to create a more welcoming area. New chairs and benches were also discussed. Heavy use has taken a toll on the existing furniture. The benches are simply too hot for sitting during the summer.

North End Greenway Parks

On horticulture, the Conservancy received high marks for its organic and sustainable practices. Foreman Anthony Ruggiero reviewed the methods of composting and fertilizing that are being looked at by other parks, including the Esplanade.

Attendees told the staff they want more colorful planting beds on Parcels 8 and 10. Such an effort is a high priority of the Friends of the North End Parks. Despite months of negotiations, a plan has yet to be approved by the Conservancy. FOTNEP is expected to present its volunteer-driven ideas at the Conservancy’s April 9th Board meeting (Atlantic Wharf, 290 Congress St., 2nd Floor, 5:30pm, 4/9/13, open to the public).

FOTNEP and the Conservancy worked together last Fall to plant over 12,000 daffodil bulbs in the North End Parks. A Daffodil Day is scheduled for April 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm to celebrate the Spring in the parks.

Frontage along Cross Street was also identified as an issue. Vines have not worked along the pergola edge so other types of horticulture were suggested to insulate the area from the traffic distractions. At the same time, there was some interest in coordinating the Greenway space with the Cross Street woonerf / pedestrian plaza on the North End side of the street. “In the North End, as with most of the Greenway, incorporating the edges is important,” said Jonash. Councilor Sal LaMattina has made activating the Cross Street plaza a 2013 priority for his office.

One of the disco balls on display in the North End Parks as part of the Conservancy’s Winter Lights program.

Director of Operations, Steve Anderson, reviewed the Conservancy’s Winter Lights program that resulted in this year’s disco balls. “We received positive feedback,” said Anderson. Obviously, he’s not talking to the readers that ranked it the lowest option in a recent poll survey.

Events and programming activities were reviewed by Director of Public Programs, Charlie McCabe. In the breakout sessions, residents suggested more winter activities, perhaps even a holiday market similar to Downtown Crossing.

For Greenway Parcel 12, one idea bounced around was a Dog Park on the back of the tunnel ramp curved section facing the Market District’s Parcel 7. (Ed: I’ll admit it, I brought it up!) The ramp parcel was originally designated for the now defunct Boston Museum and disconnects the North End Parks from the rest of the linear Greenway. A dog park could help activate an underutilized area and link the North End parcels with the Wharf District parks, even attracting visitors from the custom carousel. This Spring, the fences around Parcel 12 will be used for a temporary photo installation as part of the Flash Forward Festival and an artist demonstration being organized by Nate Swain.

North End Greenway Park  fountains.

Fountains are a well-regarded signature feature on the Greenway. Whether it is the Rings Fountain or the “shooters” in the North End Parks, Carpenter reviewed the high intensity of maintenance required. On Parcel 8, a longtime stubborn leak in the fountain storage tank continues to erode plantings in the area. An estimated repair cost of $35k-$70k has put off this repair so the Conservancy had decided to “live with it for now.”

The surface halogen lights along the Freedom Trail are often not working on reliable basis. A future replacement plan with modern LED lights was discussed.

Rats and rodents were brought up as a maintenance issue. Steve Carpenter reviewed the program of base stations for rodent control with results reported to Inspectional Services. The Conservancy has a daily presence on the parks with Work Inc. that empties the trash barrels up to 3 times a day.

Other ideas for the North End Parks:

  • Lawn cushions similar to the successful program at Post Office Square
  • Highlighting the historical elements and boundaries with horticulture or interpretive signage
  • Plantings around the edges of the pergola to create more of a buffer
  • Create a relationship to the proposed public market at Parcel 7
  • Working with the Friends of Christopher Columbus Park and coordinating some programming, such as a carousel night event coincident with the annual November trellis lighting.
  • Coordinating with Summer on the Waterfront, sponsored by The Boston Harbor Association.
  • Educational opportunities with the Greenway’s organic program, New England Aquarium, Museum of Science, Children’s Museum.
  • Food events and festivals related to offerings in the North End, perhaps coordinating with “Taste of the North End.”
  • Talking to the North Bennet Street School and Artists for Humanity to work on new outdoor furniture ideas.

The Conservancy Board members from the North End, Robyn and John, ended the meeting by inviting residents to contact them with ideas at upcoming neighborhood meetings.