PMAC is expanding volunteer network and engaging community

November 10, 2017
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The Southwest Corridor Park Management Advisory Committee has been busy expanding its network of volunteers, campaigning to increase funding to state parks, and building community through volunteer and mini-grant programs.

Jennifer Leonard, co-chair of the Southwest Corridor Park Management Advisory Committee (PMAC), said that at a time when people feel as though the country and the city are divided, PMAC is trying to ease race relations and build up family events through some of the programs in the park.

“The Southwest Corridor has a history of connecting people in a lot of different neighbors and coming together to work on the park,” Leonard said. “The park has the potential to connect communities. It’s a linear park that goes through economically diverse communities and connects in a way that other parks might not. We have a desire to tap into that potential.”

The Southwest Corridor Park has been working on expanding its volunteer network through social media and word of mouth.

“People volunteer to adopt spots in the park to garden,” Leonard said. “Some people don’t have a space to garden at home, and some people like the social aspect of adopting a spot in the park and nurturing it and watching it grow.”

Other volunteer opportunities are related to advocacy for the park, whether it’s joining a committee, attending monthly meetings, or campaigning.

PMAC is working with Boston park advocates and the Environmental League of Massachusetts on supporting new legislation called the “green budget,” which would allocate one cent of every dollar in the state budget towards parks and the environment. Leonard said that it’s important to advocate for parks and the environment, especially when state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is already facing budget cuts.

“We’re looking at what we can do to build up the state park funding so that we don’t have the feeling of being stuck, and the amount of money that they have can be more transparent,” Leonard said. “We’re trying to take a more positive approach.”

Jenny Jones is the coordinator for the volunteer network in the Jamaica Plain section of the park. Jones was also the representative who took members of the DCR on a walk through of the park to identify potential sites to establish an off-leash dog park in Jamaica Plain. This walk-through in April has not yet yielded any potential sites for a local dog park in the Corridor.

Leonard said that there is “basically no news” about any updates on a dog park. “It’s hard to push things forward,” she said.

There is a dog park already existing in the park in the South End called Carlton Court, which was originally a basketball court that was converted over ten years ago. Two volunteers have hired someone to do maintenance of that park, and coordinate fundraising for maintenance and repairs.

In terms of programming, Leonard’s favorite is the teen garden program at Jackson Square, which was started in 2009 and has been flourishing for the past two years. There is a cohort of 5 to 10 students who go out and garden in the area near Jackson in the summertime.

Another program is the mini-grant program, which is a collaboration with Northeastern University. The university provides funds for six $500 grants, which are granted to programs designed to increase community engagement with the park, such as painting programs or bike weeks. Northeastern students, as well as members of the PMAC, comprise a review team that decides how to allocate the grants.

“The mini-grant program empowers the next generation of park leadership,” Leonard said.

The Southwest Corridor also recently held a Zumba program in the park, where E-13 community service officer taught free Zumba classes in the park.

To learn more about PMAC, visit swcpc.org.

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