Residents celebrate Jamaica Pond, Christine Cooper

Over 100 people gathered at First Church UU in Jamaica Plain on Jan. 18 to celebrate Jamaica Pond Park and commemorate the late Christine Cooper.

The event was sponsored by the Jane Addams-Ellen Swallow Richards-Harriet Tubman Institute, Olmsted 2022, and the Friends of Jamaica Pond group.

Gerry Wright, local environmental activist and ecologist, gave a tribute to Christine Cooper, who died on Dec. 28.

“Christine Cooper was the heart, mind, and soul of the restoration at Jamaica Pond Park during the last 25 years of the 20th century,” Wright said. “When we began our work, the park was filled with trash and people were afraid to walk around the path to enjoy the waters and landscape.”

Various elected officials also spoke about the dramatic restoration that the park has gone through.

“I remember the first time I saw the pond as a child, and it was a sort of urban oasis,” Jamaica Plain City Councilor O’Malley said. “Now that I’m more involved in government, I appreciate how much hard work goes into maintaining the pond.”

Local state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez echoed this sentiment by saying “the pond isn’t pretty all on its own, it’s all of you who make it beautiful,” to the crowd of pond enthusiasts.

The City has allocated $4.7 million in its capital budget this year for restoration of the pathways around Jamaica Pond. The goals are to improve accessibility, site conditions, and drainage to protect water quality. The pathway improvements will include analysis of the existing pavement, entrance, drainage, as well as reviewing paving connections to the building, dock, and staircases.

Lauren Bryant will be the project contact for the Jamaica Pond Pathway project, as well as the Franklin Park Pathway project, which is already underway. The City is collaborating with Neighborhood Services and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy on this project.

O’Malley said that expectations should be managed, because the money is there but the project will not be able to be completed this year.

O’Malley also said that he and others would like to name the boathouse after Christine Cooper.

Local state Rep. Liz Malia reflected on the darker past of the pond, saying that she remembers broken glass everywhere and the area in general disrepair.

“Now the pond is a totally different universe, and Christine planted the seed for that,” Malia said.

Chris Cook, commissioner of Boston Parks and Recreation Department, said that he was excited for the Jamaica Pond Pathway project to begin.

“This is the chance for a real restoration because the pond restores us when we go to it,” Cook said.

Cook added that the mounted unit of park rangers is not going anywhere.

“We love seeing them throughout the Necklace,” Cook said.

Some residents asked about the exercise equipment around the park with concerns that it was outdated. The exercise equipment is part of the Pathways project and should see an upgrade soon.

One woman said that she was very satisfied with the maintenance of the pathways already, saying that the pathways are shoveled very well around the pond, which is “life-saving” for her biking commute.

At the event, a $2,000 historic organ grant was awarded to First Church UU. The funds had been raised by a group of community members who felt that the historic organ needed to be preserved. Monroe Heyman accepted the grant.

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