The first of three community meetings regarding the Eden Street playground was held on Sept. 20, and tensions are running high in the community on certain parts of the re-design.
Members of the community of all ages gathered inside the Golden Age Center to learn about the history and existing conditions of the site, as well as provide suggestions for the design of the new park.
Allison Perlman, project manager for Boston Parks and Recreation, said that the overall construction funding for this park is about $1.1 million. Construction will take place in the summer/fall of 2019. Perlman said she knows that this is a long process, “but input is important and so is getting the drawings right.”
The last playground improvement was in 2002. Kaki Martin from Klopfer Martin Design Group, the architects for the project, told the community that the “play area is out of date; we want to know what elements of the existing play area you want to keep.”
The playground took up a large portion of the conversation, because there were a number of children in attendance who wanted to provide suggestions for their new play equipment.
There are five elements of play for playgrounds that the Parks Department considers when constructing a playground: social/emotional, physical, sensory, cognitive, and communication.
One young girl raised her hand and said that she would like the new playground to have elements for older kids—“We don’t want to run over all the babies,” she said.
Other kids suggested things like more swings, more monkey bars, and even a rock climbing wall. Another idea was having some sort of treehouse space connected by a zipline or monkey bars.
Most community members seem to like the berms that currently exist in the park. They allow for a sense of safety, but some could argue that they impede safety as they do not provide sightlines into the park. People also like the fact that the tot lot and the courts are far away from the road. Several mothers expressed their desire to have playground benches inside the fence so they could keep a better eye on their kids, as well as stroller parking.
The architects also wanted to know if the community was happy with the current number of entry points into the park, as well as the tree canopy. They said they would like to strike a balance between keeping trees and finding places for new ones. The community also agreed that the location of the different pieces seems to be working.
Suggestions for the green space included more benches, because currently there is not enough seating, according to the community. Another community member suggested more nature and greenery, and someone else suggested the possibility of a garden space. She also said that the fence around the playground should be made of some other material—“I don’t think the kids need a chain link fence around their playground.”
Others said that the paved loop around the green space should be maintained, because it’s a great place for kids to scooter or learn how to ride a bike. Water bottle filling stations were also suggested.
Suggestions for the roller hockey rink included: bleachers along the backside of the rink, better lighting, a scoreboard, better entrances and exits to the rink, and a player bench on either side.
Another chunk of the conversation revolved around dogs in the park – one of the biggest points of contention in the community.
Perlman said that the existing type of park will remain; it will not become a dog park, though “we want to hear from everybody,” she said. “Currently it seems like it’s working the way it is; it really is about what the community wants as a whole.”
Marchelle Jacques-Yarde, outreach coordinator for Boston Parks and Recreation, said this does not seem like a good space for a dog park. Members of the community said that people do not obey the current park rule of keeping their dogs on a leash, and it also becomes a health hazard for kids trying to play in the green space.
“Part of my job is to go to these community meetings and figure out what our lead complaints are,” Jacques-Yarde said. “This is happening everywhere, dogs are an issue everywhere, it’s an enforcement issue.”
She said she gets around 100 calls minimum each day about dog complaints, and “we will never have enough manpower” to completely eradicate this issue. She reminded the community that there are a number of signs that currently exist in the park to tell dog owners to keep their dogs leashed.
“We will walk the park and talk about the signs,” Perlman said. But “we cannot enforce that; we don’t have the ability to do that.”
Jaques-Yarde said that they do want to be “partially fido-friendly.”
Some people expressed their concern for drug activity on the corner of Eden Street and Main Street, but others said they have never felt unsafe in the park despite this.
“In terms of people feeling unsafe there, I’ve never felt unsafe there,” said State Rep. Dan Ryan. He admitted that it is safe to people who know the neighborhood, but he recognizes that it could be scary to people who are unfamiliar. Perlman said they will continue the discussion of the berms, as there are valid arguments for and against having them in the park. Ryan suggested that lighting be put up in the berms.
After the group discussion, the community was invited to stay for breakout sessions to talk about the wish list for the design of the playground. A lot of people did not stay for this portion.
At the next community meeting, which will happen in October or November, the architects will present the park design alternatives for community discussion. At the final community meeting in November or December, the final schematic design will be presented to the community for discussion. The design and bid document development is slated for winter/spring of 2019, with construction to follow.