By Seth Daniel
As the cold weather gives way and spring seems to finally be set upon the Town, Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) officials are touting much-needed changes to Shipyard Park in the Charlestown Navy Yard and are calling for residents to form a new friends group to advocate for the 12-acre park.
A very important public meeting on the Park will take place tonight, April 21, at 6 p.m. in the MGH Institute of Health Professions (36 1st Ave.) in Room 322.
“The big news for this meeting is I’m trying to push for a Friends of Shipyard Park group,” said Dick Mulligan, long-time BRA planner for the Navy Yard. “It’s been very successful at Christopher Columbus Park in the North End and the Friends of the Public Garden and the Friends of the Commonwealth Mall in the Back Bay. This is a 12-acre park and I think it deserves more input from residents…I want to have a more symbiotic relationship with the BRA and the residents here and push for a Friends group. Property values in the Town have gone up 87 percent and we believe the park should reflect that improvement in the neighborhood as well.”
Shipyard Park is an older park that is actually under the authority of the BRA and not the Parks and Recreation Department. Though there’s been a long-standing rumor that the Parks and Rec will take over the park, Mulligan said that won’t happen and the meeting isn’t about that issue.
“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “The one agency that has its budget slashed all the time is Parks and Recreation. They do not have the ability to take over a 12-acre park. It has a lot of hard surface and they aren’t equipped for that.”
Lois Siegelman, president of the Friends of the Charlestown Navy Yard, said they are happy to see that the Park is staying in the BRA’s hands and that major changes are planned.
“Shipyard Park was always well maintained and they did suffer some staff cuts, but they have been putting a lot of effort this year into getting it looking better,” she said. “It deserves that.”
In fact, the meeting will be the forum for introducing some of those changes.
One of the major changes will be discussing the large splash pad water feature and the removal of the sand boxes within the playground.
“One problem we’ve had is the splash pad,” Mulligan said. “We found that the problem wasn’t actually the splash pads. We reached out to Parks and Recreation to see what they do with their splash pads. We have 26 nozzles and the most they have in a park is three. After talking with them, we found the issue was the sand. The sand from the sandboxes was getting in the water feature and that’s what was keeping them on all night. Sandboxes have been removed from almost every park in America now because sandboxes are litter boxes. One thing that keeps me up at night is thinking about someone leaving a hypodermic needle in the sand and a kid coming upon that…We’re going to remove them. People might not like that, but it’s a public health matter. We can’t do sandboxes in this day and age.”
That said, Mulligan said the meeting was necessary to let people know that change is being made. The popular sandboxes disappearing without a word from the BRA might be seen in a very negative light, and Mulligan said they don’t want to do anything without public notification and input first.
A second, less controversial change, will be the re-introduction of the fountain in the Park. The fountain has long been out of service because it was pumping water into the fountain and back out into the sewer, racking up huge water bills of about $70,000 to keep the fountain flowing during warmer months.
That, he said, was untenable. Now, though, they have a recirculation system that reuses the water and allows the fountain to flow again. Last fall, after it was installed, the BRA ran it for a week or so and got great feedback. They will turn it back on in May.
“We got the system last year and had it on in October for a few weeks and people really like seeing it back on,” he said. “With the fountain on, we believe it will keep the skateboarders away. As great and glorious as Shipyard Park is, that is one of the unintended uses and it’s something we would like to cut down on.”
A third major change will simply be on paper, but is significant.
The Korean War Memorial near the entrance of the Park has always been a separate park, with the Korean veterans getting a special stipend from the State Legislature for its upkeep. Mulligan said the Memorial will now be folded into Shipyard Park and he is assuring the Korean vets that it will be cared for by the BRA.
“We want to reassure all the Korean War veterans that it will never fall into disrepair,” he said. “We will do the legal stuff of transferring the deed and incorporating it into Shipyard Park. It’s the least we can do. We want to assure the remaining Korean War veterans that we will take care of this Memorial when they’re gone.”
Other topics of discussion will be:
•Greening up the corner of Flagship and 8th Street.
•Upkeep of the Park in general and new efforts to maintain it.
•Plantings that will be coming.
•Picnic tables: the BRA is looking for feedback as to how many picnic tables people want and where they want them.
•The possibility of constructing another shade structure in the tot lot similar to the one that exists already.