Urban Wilds: Roxbury
The Urban Wilds Initiative seeks to protect the City's publicly-owned urban wilds and thereby ensure access and enjoyment of natural treasures to present and future Boston residents.
The Cedar Street Urban Wild is surrounded by residential housing on two sides and by community gardens on two sides. A pathway winds through the wild linking the Allan Crite Garden on Cedar Street to the Highland Center Garden on Linwood Street. Both gardens are managed by the Boston Natural Areas Network. A gate provides direct access to the urban wild from the abutting residential development. The wild can also be accessed from either community garden. A portion of the urban wild has been cultivated with perennial flowers and fruiting trees including hazelnut and apple. The most notable feature of this urban wild is a large puddingstone outcrop located in the western portion of the property. Invasive sycamore maple and Norway maple dominate the site creating a shade so dense that little other than garlic mustard and mugwort survive in the understory. As a result, groundcover is sparse. A few pine oaks have survived near the rock outcrop.
The John Eliot Square Urban Wild is located behind a stone retaining wall, near the intersection of Linwood Street, Highland Avenue, and Centre Street. Linwood Street and Centre Street directly abut the wild. A section of the urban wild was occupied by Walter Kruekl, the owner of the abutting home, for years. Mr. Kruekl extensively landscaped this area, transforming the site into a lovely private garden. This parcel was later sold to Mr. Kruekl. The remaining urban wild parcel was leased to Paige Academy located immediately across Linwood Street. Paige Academy is a non-profit, private educational institution and child care center. Since 1999, the academy has used a portion of the site for parking and the remainder as a small manicured garden. The site was landscaped with native plantings approved by the Boston Parks and Recreation Department. A picnic table, wooden arbor, and log teepee provide playing areas for the students.
Taken by the city through tax foreclosure in 1962, Rockledge Urban Wild has served as a peaceful encove in densely settled Roxbury for decades. The site is characterized by a wooded puddingstone outcrop that connects a lower and upper clearing. The upper clearing, bordering Logan Street, offers excellent views of downtown Boston. Neighbors have groomed and planted the lower clearing that borders Rockledge Street. While the lower section is largely comprised of mown grasses and planted flower beds, the puddingstone outcrop supports a wide array of plant life including gray birch, beech, oaks, red maples, and ferns.
Comprised of a 50-foot rock cliff, Warren Gardens Urban Wild is bordered by Warren Street, Richard Street, and Circuit Street. Perhaps the most important aspect of this urban wild is its historical significance as one of the last remaining markers of Old Roxbury. This area was once part of teacher John Eliot's 17th century pasture, which covered thirty acres between the ancient way of Walnut Avenue and the present-day Lewis School. In 1876, merchant Isaac Fenno built a large mansion, called Buena Vista, on the highest ridge; the remains of the foundation can still be found on the site. In 1955, Almira T.B. Fenno-Gendrot willed the parcel to the city, explicitly stating that "the unique and elevated location shall be forever kept open, an object of beauty with its rocks and trees." Nine years later, the BPDA redeveloped a portion of the site as housing, named Warren Gardens, for their urban renewal scheme while the remainder was left as open space. Today, the area still provides a quiet natural respite within the dense urban setting. The majority of the outcrop is vegetated by a mixed deciduous forest of oaks, red maples, and black cherry. However, near the summit, a small section opens up into a cool, grassy field. Norway maple, European buckthorn, and multiflora rose have significantly invaded portions of the site. Earthworks has performed some removal of invasive species and replanting with native species. New plantings include sugar maple, juneberry, black and red chokecherry, white birch, gray dogwood, green and white ash, red oak, nannyberry, and white pine.