Peace Park Effort Wins Grant for Pro Bono Re-Design of McGrath Park

The Peace Park effort in Charlestown has taken a major step forward this week to re-design and upgrade the park so it is sustainable over time – with the goal of pursuing Community Preservation Act funding to build out the plan.

Officially known as McGrath Park on Lowney Way, and known over the past few years as the Peace Park, the effort fronted by The Charlestown Coalition and the Turn It Around youth group won a competitive competition with Community Outreach Group for Landscape Design (COGdesign) to gather community input and re-design the park. The competition awards the services of COGdesign for free.

“It is at a little bit of a standstill right now because of the virus, but did apply for this and were selected for completely pro-bono design,” said Sarah Coughlin of the Coalition. “We hope to be able to get this design and be able to compete for CPA funding in 2021, which can be a grant of up to $500,000. We don’t want to delay too much so we’re going online and posting a community-wide online survey. If it’s going to be another month before we all return, we’ll host virtual meetings, but if we get back open earlier, we’ll have presentations to the community at the end of May.”

“COGdesign is thrilled to have taken on the revitalization of the Lowney/McGrath park in Charlestown as one of the our eleven 2020 projects,” said Jen of COGdesign. “To have the opportunity to work with the Charlestown Coalition, an organization which is focused on community and healing, perfectly matches our mission. The landscape architects who have volunteered for this project are excited to listen to and learn from the Coalition’s youth group Turn It Around as well as all the immediate neighbors. With the idea that the Peace Park could continue to serve as a memorial for Joseph McGrath and go on to become a memorial space for all those lost to violence and overdose, design opportunities are wide open. COG looks forward to learning more about what the community would like to see.”

The Peace Park has garnered considerable attention over the last eight months due to a situation where it had fallen into a bit of disrepair, and that allegedly prompted some to apparently dismantle parts of the memorial. It has resulted in a criminal case and police investigation that continues at West Roxbury District Court.

That situation, however, has prompted a greater effort to re-build the small spot next to the Mystic/Tobin Bridge in a larger way with a more focused mission for peace, reflection and healing.

Coughlin said they went from a budget two years ago of $2,700, some cans of paint and a lot of elbow grease, to a professional design and potentially up to $500,000 in funding to build out the plan.

“I think the ideas will come from the community as to what is there and how it will look,” she said. “We have to get that input and the designers will carry it out. It will be kept to its original mission though as a place of peace and a place for people to grieve and heal. It doesn’t have to be a memorial site, but depending on funding, we might do memorial bricks like they have at the Boys & Girls Club. There is also a desire to get more trees and more greenery if we can. Whatever happens, peace and healing and remembrance will be part of it.”

She said the effort will include a plan to sustain it so there isn’t a lapse in maintenance, and State Rep. Dan Ryan is working on that piece at the moment. The Park is actually state property, but Rep. Ryan is in discussions to transfer it from the state to the City of Boston. That will help ensure continuous maintenance along with community efforts led by Turn It Around.

The Coalition is now creating the online survey, and will notify the community through many channels when it is ready to gather input.

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