Just any old fence won’t do at the historic Training Field in Winthrop Square.
The small, City-owned urban park marks a great moment in American history where the Colonials stood up to their British oppressors. It’s likely where they trained, fought and died in the Battle of Bunker Hill. To wit, large memorials remember just that fact at the entrance to the Field.
But history aside, the Training Field is on the Freedom Trail and attracts thousands of visitors a year, as well as neighbors who relish the quiet and tranquility of the gallant urban space – a place to find respite or to walk the dog or have a chat with a friend.
So, making it as special as can be is paramount, and neighbor Diane Valle is leading a multi-pronged effort with the Friends of the Training Field to raise money for an enhanced fence replacement in the City’s overall plan to rehabilitate the Field.
“The latest twist in the project is that the City is only able to provide us with the single shaft picket fence,” said Valle. “However, a lot of the community members remember there was a beautiful ornate fence around the Training Field…We would really like to see an enhanced fence and are hoping to raise money and work with others to reach that goal. The people who live on the square appreciate the history of it and above all the visitors do come here. It’s part of American history here. It’s not just for us, but for everyone. The good news is the community is very activated on this, they want it and will take care of it. What more could you ask for?”
She also noted the historical nature of the Training Field and the fact that it is a natural stopover for tourists trekking up the Hill from the USS Constitution.
“It’s the first park in America, or at least one of the very first,” she said. “This was a training field before the Revolutionary War. The British trained here and the Patriots trained here. It’s been a part of the community for hundreds and hundreds of years. It’s on the Freedom Trail, which passes right through here, and is the connecting piece between the Constitution and Bunker Hill.”
Neighbor Lou Slaughter said those who live around the Field would like to see the fence restored appropriately to match the importance of the park.
“There’s so much history here and it has to rank among the top handful of parks in the city,” he said one recent day while walking his dog in the Field. “The upgrade of the park and the fence is needed to show everyone how important this park is.”
The first prong of the fundraising effort – which looks to need a total of around $175,000 – will come through an effort to forge a partnership with the National Park Service (NPS). The Friends have petitioned the superintendent of the Boston NPS site and hope that a great partnership can be formed to help enhance the fence and work together moving forward.
“we believe this is a win-win for all of us,” said Valle. “They get the City to beautify the park, we get the NPS to help out and the neighborhood is helping out with funding. This could be a real cooperative moment for all of us. We want people to see everybody benefits here. There is money left over in the NPS budget, we’ve learned. This is Boston money for Boston parks and why no keep it in Boston where it belongs. Otherwise, it just goes back to Washington. We’ve met with the new superintendent for Boston and we think this can be a great collaboration. It will be a great way for them to work with us and for us to work with them.
Already, that effort has garnered support from Congressman Michael Capuano, who has penned a letter in support of the partnership.
“One significant feature, period appropriate fencing, needs additional support,” his office wrote. “The City of Boston has budgeted $175,000 specifically for the fence. I write today to request the National Park Service consider entering into a cooperative agreement with the Friends of the Charlestown Training Field and the Charlestown Preservation Society to pave the way for a matching $175,000 to ensure the historic field will be surrounded by suitable fencing…By committing to match the City’s funds, the Park Service can enhance its own visitors’ experience while committing to support its neighbors at the same time.”
Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley has also written a letter asking for the same support.
In the second part of that effort, Valle has started a local fundraising effort amongst neighbors and also on the Internet with change.org, Friends of the Training Field. Anyone can give online or can call Valle at (617) 791-5663. Yet another opportunity will be available through a fundraiser at Legal Oysteria in City Square, where residents can raise money at Brunch on June 28 or lunch on June 29. Those attending can sign up to get $10 off their brunch or lunch and that money will go to the Friends of the Training Field.
The overall Training Field rehabilitation project is has been advertised for bidding and construction is expected in the late summer or fall of this year. Valle said the Judy McDonough of the Charlestown Preservation Society (among many others) have been instrumental in that fight to restore the park, and Mayor Martin Walsh and Councilor Sal LaMattina have put their full support behind making it happen.
In addition to the fencing replacement, the project will address soil erosion and lawn issues, install an irrigation system, replace and repair historic elements ( such as the granite urns, cast iron bollards and stair repairs), repair any pavement, improve drainage and install new site furnishings (i.e., benches, drinking fountains, new trash cans and new columns).