By Seth Daniel
Some last minute changes regarding concrete walkways and future concerns about dogs off-leash were the lively topics of discussion at a meeting of the Friends of the Training Field on Tuesday night, March 29, at the American Legion Post #26 as the active group gets ready to welcome a new and improved historic park later this spring.
President Dianne Valle ran the meeting and gave the group of about 25 neighbors, mostly from Common, Winthrop and Adams Streets, an update on the progress of the park reconstruction that began last fall just before Halloween.
Right now, most of the walkways have been ripped up and curbing has been put in place. Sidewalks appear ready to be poured any day, and an irrigation system is in the midst of being lain throughout the grass areas of the Field.
The special outer fence, which was fought for and won by the Friends, is currently being fabricated and will be placed later this spring.
One startling change in the project for neighbors was the fact that some of the areas of the walkway inside the Field are not going to be replaced. Instead, Valle said, the City just plans to patch them and connect them to the new sections of concrete walkways.
“We thought it would be one contiguous walkway, but they say they want to keep certain elements and try to be sustainable,” she said. “It’s going to cost another $100,000, but I spoke to the contractor and he will do it for $75,000. Me talking to him knocked off 25 percent, so what could the City do? I think we want excellence in the park, so we do have a petition to get the mayor, the City Council and Commissioner (Chris) Cook to re-examine their position…It’s a cost I think is more than anyone has to be able to bring out a checkbook and solve the problem. It was my understanding the walkways were going to be done and the City’s interpretation was the walkways are getting done. Some of them are getting patched and the City is being sustainable.”
Most of the areas that appear to be lined of for saving are along the Adams Street side and the Winthrop Street side, especially at the main entrances. That posed a problem for several neighbors who said the walkways would look terrible because they won’t match and they’ll break down at different times.
“I think that sidewalk issue is going to look (terrible),” said Bill Kelly. “It’s not going to match. All that money is going to go for nothing if we don’t get that corrected now. They’re bringing the curbs up and they’re getting ready to pour cement. If we snooze, we’re going to lose here.”
Neighborhood Liaison Chris Breen said he had looked into the sidewalk issue at the City level, and had gotten similar answers so far from those in the Parks Department. He said he would deliver the signed petition to the Mayor’s Office.
Meanwhile, a lively discussion was held regarding how dogs will be handled once the Field is back in use – especially in regards to dog droppings and dogs running off leash.
Most neighbors in attendance, some that are dog owners, said they didn’t want to see the Field go back to the designated dog running area.
“I don’t think it should be used as the place where people bring their dogs to run,” said Bri Grady. “It’s a small scale park and used by people with kids and those who don’t have dogs. We’re already going to have every dog there that will pee in the grass, but we’ll deal with that. I don’t think we should have dogs off leash tearing up the new grass. I’m very excited about the fact that the horticulture of the park is getting replaced, but it’s going to be a stab through the heart the first time I see dogs running in circles off leash out there.”
Others had concerns about dog droppings, and Valle said it’s going to take some education and the building of a culture in the Field to set the tone for that.
“I will not be convinced a dog dropping is a public enhancement,” she said. “Hopefully people will understand that the people who do that tend to think of it as fertilizer. It is not fertilizer.”
A contingent of neighbors from the quickly growing Charlestown Dogs organization was also in attendance and they said they would agree that it shouldn’t be an off leash park and dog droppings should be discouraged.
“A small percentage don’t pick up and that ruins it for all of us,” said one neighbor, who is a member of Charlestown Dogs.
He indicated the organization would do its best to educate owners within the organization and outside the organization about the do’s and don’t’s on the new Training Field.
Valle ended the meeting with a suggestion that the community have a celebration with re-enactors, preservationists and the entire community to highlight the new version of the historic Field. It was well received and left on the table for future discussion.
Valle said the hope is that the Field will be done by Bunker Hill Day.