Wilkerson secures $5.69 million in bond bill
JACKSON SQ.—After years outside in the cold, Friends of Kelly Rink is a step closer to realizing its dream of getting inside in the cold, thanks to the efforts of state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson.
A $5.69 million item in the state bond bill, which overall authorizes $1.7 billion in bonds, would fund the construction of an enclosed skating rink in Jackson Square.
“It’s been a long time since Roxbury and Jamaica Plain have celebrated new investment in recreation space. This is long overdue,” Wilkerson said in a press statement.
The senator also secured $4.4 million for a redesign of the currently inactive Melnea Cass Rink in Roxbury.
The new Kelly Rink has been proposed as part of a major Jackson Square redevelopment project being undertaken by a group of for-profit and nonprofit developers known as Jackson Square Partners.
“It’s good news, it’s the first step of many that need to be taken before the project can actually happen,” said Mossik Hacobian, president of Urban Edge, one of the nonprofit development corporations that are part of the Jackson Square project.
The relocation of the Kelly Rink to Jackson Square was a source of contention for years with advocates for the restoration of the Cass Rink. That rink is located on Malcolm X Boulevard, close to the JP/Roxbury border.
“Jackson Square Partners has been committed to proceeding with development in a way that is mindful of both the Cass and the Kelly,” Hacobian said.
Hacobian said that Kelly would have ice, and Cass would have a roller rink and an enclosed pool. Both facilities would have space for other sports activities, he said.
“We want to make sure the two facilities are coordinated. They are a quarter of a mile apart,” he said.
Cass and Kelly—along with local parks and a youth and families center that is also part of the Jackson Square redevelopment plan—could be a “campus of programmed facilities for recreation, education and other services,” Hacobian said.
Friends of Kelly Rink was founded in 1997 after the original Kelly Rink, located on the Jamaicaway, was torn down, Steve Glickel, president of Friends of Kelly Rink, said.
In 1999, Kelly was relocated to an open-air site near the Stony Brook Orange Line T stop.
That rink has been operated by Friends of Kelly since then. While some people “get misty-eyed about open-air skating,” maintaining that rink has been a headache, Glickel said.
While bad weather and mechanical issues have generally limited the use of the open-air rink to eight weeks a year, the indoor rink could potentially be open for six months or even year-round, he said.
Wilkerson said she has been advocating for funding for quite some time. “I can remember back to six years, maybe it was eight,” she said.
“This [year] was the first end of a legislative session with a Democratic governor,” she said. “There has been a flurry of bond bills.” Other bond bills passed this year include authorizations for billions of dollars for housing and transportation infrastructure.
Bond bills are authorizations for funding, and, even after he signs it, the governor still prioritizes what projects move forward, but Wilkerson seemed confident that the two rink projects would be funded quickly.
A community process to start discussing work on both the Cass and the Kelly will begin in the fall, she said.
“Let’s not count our chickens before they are hatched,” Glickel said. But, while there is still plenty of work to do, “We are very appreciative and excited about [the work Wilkerson] has done.”
Wilkerson also secured $1.2 million in the bond bill for forest regeneration work in the Emerald Necklace parks, including JP’s Franklin and Olmsted parks.
“We don’t ever think [forests] have to be maintained just like roads and bridges,” she said.