Continued Report on Feb. 2 Joint Meeting of the Conservancy Board of Directors and Greenway Leadership Council

6, Feb, 2010 Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy

The following information is excerpted from the public presentation to the Greenway Board of Directors and Greenway Leadership Council on Tuesday, February 2, 2010 during the agenda item, “Process steps regarding the Fort Point/Dewey Square Parks”. Linda Jonash, Director of Planning and Design, summarized the research into below-grade problems in the Dewey Square Parks, and suggested a possible approach that could 1) better integrate these spaces with the public experience of the rest of the Greenway while 2) still keeping their integrity as urban garden landscapes.

Where: Fort Point Channel Parks south

Fort Point Channel and Dewey Square Parks

As previously described in our Jan 14 posting, the name Fort Point Chanel Parks has been proposed for the two parcels north of the air intake structure, between Congress Street and Seaport Boulevard.  The name is derived from the former Fort Hill which rose to the west of the parks (near High and Oliver Streets) and recognizes the parks’ proximity to Fort Point Channel, visible on either side of the InterContinental Boston hotel and the new Atlantic Wharf property under construction.

The focus of the meeting was specifically on the southern section of Fort Point Channel Parks (parcel 21) between Congress and Pearl Streets.

Why: research findings about poor sub-grade conditions

Observations of the conditions in the planting beds and pathways of the Fort Point Channel Parks by the Conservancy staff (2008-2009) suggested that there are problems below ground in several areas that contribute to unwanted pools of water which continually wash out pathways and inhibit healthy plant growth. Because the site had been a staging area for the Big Dig, sub-grade conditions were severely compacted and remained so at the time the interim gardens were planted (2008). To investigate these observations, the Conservancy hired the respected soil specialists Pine and Swallow Associates to research the park soils.

The Pine and Swallow team dug test pits, did percolation tests, sampled soil and performed laboratory testing. The key findings of their report included problems with site grading, infiltration rates, compaction and soil structure and biology . Specifically, poor water penetration in the lower soil areas results in saturated conditions in others.  Compounding the problem, the current sloping grade of the site concentrates all excess water flow to a single corner of the site which remains constantly wet. In addition, soils in several areas were found to be anaerobic (lacking oxygen) and an unhealthy environment to support robust lawn-use. The inter-connectivity of these issues is shown on the diagram.

What: how to fix the issues

A remediation strategy to properly fix problematic grading, soils and infrastructure conditions will inevitably require reconstruction of some or all of this parcel. This creates an opportunity to make a good public landscaped space much better.  The intent of any site remediation is to develop a robust, varied landscape with four seasons of colorful plants that significantly increases the amount of plants and trees currently present. Equally important, any concept must provide a healthy growing environment in which the plants and trees can flourish.

An early landscape concept by Conservancy staff and consultants Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Maryann Thompson Architects was presented for consideration and discussion.

While addressing the ongoing maintenance issues on the site, the Conservancy has also had the opportunity to observe how park visitors are using the park. In essence it has become a pass-through space because it lacks basic amenities like shade, wind protection, seating and other conveniences of a modern urban park like a place to grab a cup of coffee or a cold drink in the summer and Wi-Fi.  Early concepts answer these needs by proposing a small visitor pavilion in Parcel 21 that would serve residents, office workers, and visitors to this portion of the Greenway.

In this concept, a visitor pavilion would be a lightweight, flexible park support facility, scaled to complement the landscape.  We think this could be a very popular place for Bostonians and park visitors alike; and this flexible approach would enable us all to continue to learn what suits this new public space.

How: process and fundraising

Over the months ahead there will be community meetings to build from these early concepts and draw out new ideas.  Together, we wish to build consensus on what will make Parcel 21 into a great public park — beautiful, healthy, and welcoming to all. We welcome your help and feedback and look forward to including all in the public process. Three public meetings will soon be announced. All meeting dates and times will be published on the Conservancy event calendar. Individuals wishing to be contacted via email about the meetings are encouraged to sign up for our email newsletter and/or write info@rosekennedygreenway.org.

Lastly, once community consensus is achieved, these improvements will require fundraising as the entire project will be funded with private funds.

We’d love to hear from you. Please send questions, comments, ideas or concerns to info@rosekennedygreenway.org.

The Pine and Swallow team dug test pits, did percolation tests, sampled soil and performed laboratory testing. The key findings of their report included problems with site grading, infiltration rates, compaction and soil structure and biology . Specifically, poor water penetration in the lower soil areas results in saturated conditions in others.  Compounding the problem, the current sloping grade of the site concentrates all excess water flow to a single corner of the site which remains constantly wet. In addition, soils in several areas were found to be anaerobic (lacking oxygen) and an unhealthy environment to support robust lawn-use. The interconnectivity of these issues is shown on the diagram.