Standing on the parking lot or open space at Hood Park in year’s past meant having a front-row seat to the highway just a few knots to the west. Now, the wind rustles in the trees, the fountains flow and the highway cannot be seen so well. That’s all part of the innovative plan for the public realm brought about by Charlestown landscape architect Kate Kennen, whose firm Offshoots is based on Rutherford Avenue and who formerly lived in the Town for several years. When Kennen was brought onto the project by Hood Park owner Chris Kaneb, the task was to block out the highway, but through a technique she has pushed forward using native plantings – she’s also looking to clean up the pollution from the highway as well.
“We’re very excited because the whole object of this job is about blocking I-93, which is amazing,” she said. “When we first started putting everything in, it was to help relieve pollution in Charlestown by blocking out the particulate matter and the sound and creating a backdrop.” Part of the strategy is choosing native plants, such as Quaking Aspen and Bay Berry that also serve as a magnet to trap particulate matter. It’s a somewhat new idea that Kennen is pushing at her firm that is known as Phyto-remediation, and she’s brought it to Hood Park.
“These leaves have been shown in studies to collect more particulate matter,” she said. The second piece of that plan is putting in native trees with deep roots that extend 20 feet into the ground and suck up the ground water – purifying it from any historic or current pollutants. “We did Phyto-remediation on two levels – for the air quality particulate matter and for the ground water too,” she said. “This process is an idea that I’ve been talking about and it has been something we wanted to implement for a long time.”
Another part of the plan is to create “thickets” of warm-season grasslands, and the native trees to create an edge for the campus. Meanwhile, that all surrounds a stage for performances that could include music or plays or the like. She said they have also planted 30,000 bulbs in the area, which are not native, but serve to create a space where they envision families from Charlestown coming to celebrate Mother’s Day. “The idea is having a space in Charlestown that would be an amazing place to go and spend Mother’s Day with family,” she said. Kennen has operated Offshoots for five years, and has been based on Rutherford Avenue during that time.