Editorial: Un-ruin the Bear Dens

January 31, 2014
By

The Gazette’s further revelations this week about the decaying Bear Dens in Franklin Park underscore the need for action. The lack of historic protection and ownership confusions place the charming structure in danger. But the many good ideas already collected from the public in prior decades point the way to its future.

The Bear Dens are currently labeled an “architectural ruin”—a fancy term for neglect. If collapsing iron bars or stone blocks fall on someone there, lawyers will quickly clear up ownership mysteries and action will suddenly kick in. Obviously, responding to crisis with a fenced-off eyesore or a demolished blank spot would be a terrible outcome.

A play area and a theater production site are among good ideas already on paper. At little expense, the Parks Department could hold some meetings to brainstorm possible ideas and stir political will from the JP, Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan communities, and then see what might be feasible.

Park funding in general is in crisis mode at the moment. But in a city where people drop a half-million dollars to buy a parking space, surely some publicly minded wealthy benefactor could step up. John Fish of the gigantic firm Suffolk Construction recently offered a surprise rehab of White Stadium elsewhere in the park. Perhaps one of Boston’s many pro athletes would attach his name to a new trailhead promoting physical fitness. Perhaps an Affleck or a Walhberg would be interested in funding a new performing arts site.

At the Bear Dens, the possibilities of reuse and funding are many, while further neglect has only one possible outcome.