By Adam Swift
Construction on a redeveloped and improved Ryan Playground could begin as early as next fall. At a virtual public meeting last week, representatives from the Boston Parks Department and the project consultant presented three potential options for the development of the playground. Over the coming months, the consultants will be taking input on the options before holding another public meeting in late February or early March to present a final design plan for the playground.
“These concepts we are presenting are really intended to generate conversation,” said Brandon Kunkel of consultant Weston and Sampson. “This meeting is to generate ideas and gain feedback to make sure we are on the right track.” Currently, the playground has a concession stand and operations building, a youth hockey rink, a Little League field, youth baseball field, and softball field as well as a playground and a small parking lot with 25 spaces. “It’s a great site with great views toward the Tobin Bridge as well as across the river,” said Kunkel. Feedback from a previous public meeting shows that the top three desired amenities for the redeveloped playground include improved sports fields, water access, and children’s playground equipment, according to Kunkel.
The three options that were presented all address those issues, as well as addressing raising the elevation of the park and the waterfront area to prevent future flooding and coastal issues. The options feature different approaches to how the water’s edge is addressed, according to parks department project manager Abigail Chatfield. Some of those options include a harder landscape such as a deck with viewing areas at the water’s edge or a softer landscape with more plantings and pathways.
“We are going to balance the responses we hear here tonight with our budget considerations going forward,” said Chatfield. She said the city and consultants will also be considering whether the fields will be artificial or natural turf. In addition to some configuration of the current playing fields, the plans include a multi-purpose field that can be striped and used for soccer and other sports. The first option includes expansive views of the Mystic River accomplished by raising the elevation of the playing fields as well as the landscaping at the edge of the water. The amenities for this option include the multi-purpose field, a larger playground, an open lawn, sweeping views, and an adult fitness area. The second option differs from the first in that only the waterfront area is elevated. “I think you will see a lot of similarities between the plans because the programming being asked of the park today and moving into the future is trying to pack a lot into a relatively small, hard space,” said Kunkel.
The second option, he said, ultimately creates a berm that allows the fields to stay at more or less their current elevation. This option also includes a larger playground, gathering spaces, adult fitness, a basketball court, and a dog run. The last option presented by Kunkel includes four fields that can be used simultaneously, a splash pad, pickleball courts, adult fitness, and gathering spaces. The water’s edge would have a more natural look with this option, Kunkel said, providing a habitat for birds and other smaller animals. Questions were raised by residents about parking, since one of the options presented does not include any parking.
Parking is provided, however, at the neighboring Schrafft’s center. There were also several people who asked about including more options for a fenced-in dog area, and there were some questions about the environmental impact of using synthetic turf versus natural turf. Anyone who didn’t attend the meeting can take an online survey at the Ryan Playground project website at https://www.boston.gov/departments/parks-and-recreation/improvements-john-j-ryan-playground.