Peace Garden redesign discussed

March 29, 2013
By

EGLESTON SQ.—Tables to play dominoes and more community events were two of many ideas tossed around during a March 13 brainstorming session on the redesign of the Egleston Square Peace Garden, which is located at the corner of Washington and School streets.

About 15 people attended the meeting at the Egleston Square YMCA.

Other ideas mentioned were adding a meditation place, constructing lunch tables, having an area for vegetable and herb gardens and installing a screen for movie nights. There would need to be a fundraising campaign for any changes to the park.

The Peace Garden property is owned by Clear Channel Outdoor, which has a billboard on the site, but the park is leased by the Ecumenical Social Action Committee, Inc. (ESAC). It is a 10-year lease that expires in 2018.

Clear Channel Outdoor, which is owned by the mass media company Clear Channel Communications, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It is unclear why Clear Channel owns the property.

Some attendees asked that the billboard be removed, or placed on the wall of a building abutting the park. Other people asked that alcohol ads be banned from the billboard and be replaced with ads for local businesses.

Bill Minkle, executive director of ESAC, said in a follow-up interview that there are restrictions concerning the billboard in the terms of the lease, but said he will approach Clear Channel Outdoor to discuss the community input.

“They’re been a good partner,” Minkle said of Clear Channel.

Another community meeting on the redesign was held March 16. Betsy Cowan, executive director of Egleston Square Main Street, said about 20 people attended and similar ideas were discussed, but some news ones, such as installing kids play equipment, were mentioned.

Students at the Greater Egleston Community High School designed the Peace Garden and a mural inside it, which memorialize those who lost their lives to violence on the streets of Boston. The former abandoned lot was part of a community-wide effort in 2002 that involved ESAC, Egleston Square Main Streets, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation and other community groups and businesses.

Will Morales, executive director of Egleston Square YMCA, talked about the park falling into disrepair during the March 13 meeting. He said bricks at the park that memorialize people who have been lost to violence have weeds growing over them.

“How do we bring back community investment?” asked Morales.

He added that the time has come for new community engagement and to reclaim the park.

Minkle said the design team, Community Outreach Group for Landscape Design (COGdesign), will try to incorporate as much of the community input as it can into several redesign plans. COGdesign is doing the work pro bono. A community meeting on the plan will then take place, followed by a fundraising campaign to fund the redesign.

But first, Minkle said, a community meeting to clean up and spruce up the park for spring will take place. That meeting is slated for April 3 at 6 p.m. at the Egleston Square YMCA.

Best of JP 2014