Jamaica Pond Pathways planning places priority on landscaping and infrastructure

The first community meeting about the $4 million Jamaica Pond Pathways improvements project was held on April 10. About 20 people attended the meeting to share their thoughts about the priorities and strategies for the improvements.

The City’s capital budget has allocated $4,060,000 to the project, but the budget for construction will be more like $4 million after designers and administrative costs. The project is in its design stage, which involves balancing community input with City of Boston priorities, parks and recreation goals, and safety and regulatory guidelines.

The City of Boston priorities are expanding walkable access to parks, addressing equity, climate resilience, health, and housing and community building. BPRD goals are for parks to be accessible and available to all; diverse, balanced, and with an efficient mix of uses; involving meaningful and inclusive community engagement; to have adaptive and resilient landscapes; and to promote connections.

According to Kyle Zick, the design consultant on the project, the scope of the project extends only to the infrastructure of the pathways. This was a disappointment or point of misunderstanding from some community members who were more concerned about the landscaping and maintenance of the natural assets of the park.

“I’m frozen to hear that this is not going to include landscaping, but only infrastructure,” said Gerry Wright, president of the Friends of Jamaica Pond. Wright said that he was informed earlier that the plan would include landscaping.

“As terrific as this budget is, we’ll have to do what we can with what we have, and talk about setting priorities,” said Margaret Dyson, director of historic parks at Boston Parks and Recreation Department (BPRD).

The project also is not intended for the boathouse. There is currently a project already in place to replace the boathouse dock, which is separate from the pathways project. Another concurrent but separate project is being led by the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to install stairs to enter from Parkman Drive, which should be completed this spring.

The Jamaica Pond Park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 1800s, is a historic landmark, so the project needs approvals from the Boston Landmarks Commission before they can make any changes to the park.

“The paths are in bad condition. There are multiple layers of pavement there, and it needs to be redone,” Zick said. “We will be looking at the material of the path and shoulders and how it will relate to storm water, as well as considering whether or not dirt or gravel paths should be formalized and paved.”

Zick acknowledged that some parts of the park do have troublesome landscaping, such as the grassy area next to Perkins Street.

“I think because people walk straight down from their parked cars from the Perkins Street area, that landscape has suffered quite a bit,” Zick said.

Signage may be part of the plan, as some signs need to be replaced. Residents at the meeting said they want to make sure that bicyclists don’t use the walking path, so it may help to have more prominent signs like those on the Southwest Corridor Park, which indicate where bicyclists can ride.

The Hubway bike share system, soon to be the Blue Bikes, has been having public meetings to identify new locations for the bikes across the city, and one of those locations is near Jamaica Pond. Some residents expressed concerns that this would increase bike traffic on the walking path if a location is placed at the park. Will Poff-Webster, who works for City Councilor O’Malley’s office, said that the proposed location for the bikes is actually across the Jamaicaway from the boathouse, suggesting that it may deter bike traffic from the walking paths.

Residents also discussed what type of material is best for runners who use the path, since there are dirt paths about a foot wide on either side of the paved path around the pond and why some runners choose not to use the paved part. One resident said that it was to ease tension on joints, and another resident thought that it was to have more space to get around larger walking groups and strollers. Ideas for paving materials that might be conducive to runners that were brought up were blue sand dust, some sort of softer rubber material, or simply leaving the dirt path on either side.

Barry Schwartz of the Jamaica Pond Association said that he regularly picks out bits of asphalt from the pond, and is concerned about their impact on the water. He said that the reason the path is deteriorating is because the maintenance vehicles that drive on the path are too heavy for the paving, and suggested considering what types of vehicles would be using the path when considering the new paving material.

Residents suggested that for the next meeting, the planners study other similar urban parks with ponds and show successes and failures, as well as figuring out how much the cost per square foot would be to pave in various materials.

The second community meeting will be in May and the third meeting will be this fall. The construction will be done in two phases: the first phase will be around the Pinebank in fall 2018, and the second phase around the pond will be in spring 2019.

Residents can take the City’s survey to share their thoughts about the priorities of the project by visiting bit.ly/2HB3qVa.

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