Friends group has big plans for pond

October 10, 2008
By

DAVID TABER

PONDSIDE—Friends of Jamaica Pond is planning to kick its advocacy and planning efforts for Jamaica Pond Park into high gear in the coming months, said Gerry Wright, who heads the group.

Friends of the pond, along with the JP-based Emerald Necklace Conservancy, hosted a forum Sept. 25, attended by about 25 community members, to discuss the pond’s future at the First Church of JP, Unitarian Universalist. On October 23, the group plans to host another meeting, with Antonia Pollack, head of the Boston Parks Department and other public officials, to discuss short- and long-term improvements to the area, Wright said. [See JP Agenda, page 19.]

The Oct. 23 meeting will mostly be focused on maintenance issues, including reseeding lawn areas, repairing and replacing benches and dealing with invasive plant species, Wright said.

But, he said, he also hopes to kick start a longer-term process to consider bigger changes to the park area.

Two of the larger ideas explored at the Sept. 25 meeting were closing Parkman Drive—which runs along the west side of the pond—to vehicular traffic, and opening an open-air café in the area around the pond’s boathouse and gazebo on the Jamaicaway.

The west side of the pond is served by two roads—Parkman and Prince Street—connecting Kelly Circle to the south of the pond with Perkins Street to the north. Parkman runs next to the pond, and Prince runs one block west.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which has jurisdiction over Parkman Drive, has done one-day shutdowns of the road in the past.

Sarah Freeman, a member of the Arborway Coalition who attended the meeting, said closing the road would improve access to the Francis Parkman Memorial, a small park between Parkman and Prince on the north side of the pond.

“Right now [to get from the pond to the park] you have to climb through rugged landscape, climb over a guardrail, and there is no sidewalk” once you are on Parkman,” she said.

Freeman also said that some at the meeting had concerns that opening a café might lead to the, “yuppiefication of the pond.”

Parks Department spokesperson Mary Hines declined to comment, ahead of the Oct. 23 meeting, on whether the city department would endorse or participate in a major planning process.

Wright said he was unsure if representatives from DCR would be attending the meeting.

But, he said, Friends of Jamaica Pond will press forward with or without the blessing of a public agency. “I believe in democracy,” Wright, who has been advocating for the pond for 30 years, said.

He said the group is ready for new projects now that the planning process around Pinebank section of the park is done. That process has led to the construction of a memorial to Pinebank Manor, a mansion that once stood on a bluff the northeast side of the pond. It will include an outline of the mansion’s foundation and a memorial plaque.

If Friends of Jamaica Pond can develop “consensus and a critical mass,” it will likely be able to convince the city and state to take a serious look at the plans it develops, he said.

Though it did not come up at the Sept. 25 meeting, one point where it may be hard to reach consensus is whether to allow swimming in the pond.

That long-standing debate revived itself in the Boston Globe and the letters pages of the Gazette in the waning days of this summer.

“I’m opposed to swimming every stroke of the way,” Wright said, “It’s a matter of water quality and safety.”

Freeman said she thinks swimming “idealistically might be nice, but it would be a lot of work.”

In other pond news, City Park Rangers Capt. Gene Savillo told the Gazette the rangers plan to re-open a small nature center in their station at Jamaica Pond, possibly by the end of the fall.

Cleaning and updating the exhibits at the station, housed underneath the gazebo, will help the rangers revamp “efforts at environmental education and ourtreach” that have, in recent years, “dwindled or been put off to the side,” Savillo said.

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