Editorial: Bear Dens a symptom of park malaise

The sorry state of the historic Bear Dens in Franklin Park is symptomatic of the City’s long disregard for its outstanding park system. Mayor Walsh, already smartly pledging to fix City Hall Plaza’s open space disaster, has an excellent opportunity to make the entire Emerald Necklace shine its brightest.

Boston’s parks are no disaster area, but they are shadows of what they should be in a wealthy, world-class city. Travel most anywhere else and by comparison, the Emerald Necklace looks stressed, overtaxed and behind the times. The City’s park system lacks amenities found almost everywhere else, such as dog parks and skate parks.

There’s no lack of talent and know-how at the Parks Department. There’s no lack of passion and power at such “friends” groups as the Franklin Park Coalition.

There’s been a lack of commitment and vision from City Hall. There’s underfunding, a shortage of oomph, overreliance on taken-for-granted volunteers for everything from planting to, believe it or not, policing.

Like many things in ancient Boston, the Bear Dens are an outdated oddity, but also a charming potential resource. It is sad, but not surprising, to learn that no one is sure why they are disappearing bit by bit, and that no one is really doing much about it. The coalition and the Parks Department have their hands full just operating Franklin Park, that great jewel that is crucially important to some of Boston’s most underserved communities.

Friends groups can’t fix infrastructure. The Parks Department can’t maintain historic parks solely with amateur volunteers. For too long, residents and Parks have had to meekly compromise on humble plans to use the scraps they’re given.

Parks are a necessity for physical and mental health. We look forward to Mayor Walsh and the new City Council bringing fresh eyes and better support to Boston’s greenspace.

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