DCR’s Leo Roy Discusses Preservation, Improvements at JPA Annual Meeting

By Lauren Bennett

    The Jamaica Pond Association (JPA) held their annual meeting on June 3 at the Loring Greenough House, where special guest speaker Leo Roy, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) addressed attendees.

    Prior to Roy’s speech, JPA members and the community mingled over snacks and beverages with new JP liaison Enrique Pepen, State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, and Rep. Nika Elugardo.

    During his speech, Roy spoke about the history of DCR and its outlook on nature, as well as talked about some of the work it has done across the state and very locally. He said that the DCR has “made improvements over the last four years,” but he admitted that there is still “a lot more work to do.” The DCR manages nearly 500,000 acres of land across the Commonwealth, Roy said. He talked about the DCR’s effort to “green the gateway cities,” where the DCR was challenged to plant 10,000 trees. It took three years, but the effort was supported by Governor Baker. This past Earth Week, Roy said they doubled that amount by planting the 20,000th tree, in hopes of “transforming or reducing the hear island effect and improving quality of life” in cities across the state. The survival rate of the trees was “better than 90 percent,” Roy said, “almost unheard of in urban areas.” People in the communities have adopted these trees and have promised to take care of them for two years, Roy said.

    He also talked about projects that have been done in the Jamaica Plain area, and said that “replacing damaged infrastructure with parks is really the direction we need to go in.” He said that the Casey Overpass was removed and replaced with paths and walkways, three new crosswalks were created on Centre St., and intersection improvements were made on Perkins St. and Parkman Dr.

    Roy said that the DCR is responsible for 1700 intersections, “many of which were poorly designed. We have a lot of work to do,” he said. He said that the raised crosswalk at the Upper Arborway was the first one installed in the DCR system. They also worked on signal timing improvements at Bynner and Willow St. and the Jamaicaway. “We’re trying to do some experiments,” Roy said.

    Roy also talked about the roadway safety audit, which has been a topic of conversation at several recent JPA meetings. “Out of that study will come short-term improvements to bicycle and pedestrian safety,” he said.

    JPA member Kevin Moloney asked Roy about a revised plan for Murray/Kelly Circles. Roy said that they will build on the work that has already been done. “The problem we have at the circle is too much pavement,” Roy said. “We don’t need all that pavement.” He said that shrinking down the amount of pavement in the area is “what’s going to make a big impact.”

    He said that once the consultant is back on board, they will meet with the community and provide updates. “We’re stressing your patience as a community for a solution. Bear with us….,” Roy said.

    JP resident Steve Crosby told Roy that several members of the JPA have been meeting to discuss closing down a portion of the Jamaicaway on select Sunday afternoons in the summer, but they have not received much correspondence from the DCR regarding the idea. “We would love to sit down with you or your designee to discuss a pilot weekend and experiment with it,” Crosby said.

    “I will endeavor to keep an open mind to the idea,” Roy said. “I have to tell you that I am initially strongly opposed to it.” He said that the Jamaicaway is a “key link to the hospitals,” and he said he was concerned for the safety of people needing help from emergency vehicles needing to use the Jamaicaway. However, he did say he was “happy to have a conversation; it certainly has appeal.” Crosby said that the subcommittee has raised the safety issue too, “but I appreciate an open mind.”

    A resident on Bynner St. told Roy that he and a group of other residents have been meeting regarding the traffic issues on the street. “Traffic is catastrophic,” he said.

    “We have made some signal timing changes at Bynner,” Roy said. “ I think there is some additional work we can do to continue tweaking that.”

            Roy finished his speech with the notion that DCR’s job is to protect natural resources in Massachusetts. “DCR was created over 125 years ago out of fear that parks and open space would be lost in the changing world,” Roy said. “Our vision as we look ahead is continuing to connect with nature.”

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