The City’s Community Preservation Committee (CPC) approved an open space grant in the amount of $500,000 last week to fund the full reconstruction of the Peace Park in Charlestown – a youth-led initiative to create a space for quiet meditation, reflection and mourning in the Town.
The grant now moves to the City Council for approval in March, which is expected, and then for final signature by the mayor. The funding is the capstone on an effort that began last year to re-design the Peace Park after a period of controversy over some vandalism that occurred there. A pro-bono design group, COG Design, last summer volunteered their services and put forth four potential designs to the community to be voted on in an online survey, and in COVID-safe gatherings at the Peace Park last summer.
Ginaya Greene-Murray, a coordinator for the Turn It Around teen group, said she has watched the young people lead and direct the process. She noted this is not designed as a place to play or walk a dog, but a unique space for reflection, remembrance and memorial.
“I think we’re in an incredible spot to do what we really want with the Park,” she said. “The state and CPC really understood the message and focus of this park, and how it’s different than any other open spaces. It’s not a dog park or a child’s park, but a place to where the community can congregate to heal.”
She said the Park has been used for community discussions on policing, reflections on violence in the community, frank discussions on race in the Town, and for the annual Overdose Memorial Vigil. That, and other things, are what the gathering space is designated for, and Greene-Murray gave credit to the young people and the CPC for pushing and understanding the difference.
“There’s no better time to fund things that build equity in our nation than now,” she said. “We need more spaces like this throughout our city.”
The project was done in conjunction with partners like the Charlestown Preservation Society (CPS), and with the support of Councilor Lydia Edwards and State Rep. Dan Ryan – as well as with the important 15-year lease sign off from MassDOT, which owns the park.
“We are very excited about our partnership with the Coalition and the continued redevelopment of the Peace Park,” said Amanda Zettel, president of CPS. “Our neighborhood is unique, with many layers of history. The Peace Park is an important addition to our community and culture that will not only honor our past but will promote the inclusive values that our community values today.”
Last November, the Charlestown Coalition and Turn It Around, along with CPS, submitted a grant application through the City of Boston’s Community Preservation Act (CPA) for funding Open Space renovations. The City’s CPC staff ranked the project among the highest of 39 others in the open space and parks category, catapulting it to one of the largest awards of $500,000.
The plan seeks to transform Mt. Vernon Street Plaza into an irrigated, landscaped green area with seating, new fencing, paving, and a quiet section to honor those lives lost to overdose and community violence. There would be enough space to host Peace Park and other important unifying community gatherings, like the group’s monthly Race and Equity Discussions held at the Park, and hosted by Councilor Edwards.
Of the four designs presented last summer, a mixture of several of them were in the final package submitted to the CPC. Those designs kept vibrant design to keep the spirit of the youth-led initiative intact, but also to be mindful of the historic nature of the neighborhood around it.
The grant would cover design and construction. Final designs will be developed by a Landscape Architect, qualified, and experienced in urban settings, which would undergo City and MassDOT reviews with neighborhood participation. The CPS, a 501(c)3 organization, will act as the fiscal sponsor and has experience in park planning at the Training Field and Preservation Park at Thompson Square.
The projects will be submitted to the Boston City Council for approval with an anticipated vote from the Council in March.