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Boston Parks Department receives more than $1.5 million in state grants

The Boston Parks and Recreation Department (BPRD) recently announced the awarding of $1,537,164 in grants from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for improvements to Boston parks and open spaces.

The three grants are the result of a successful ongoing application process by the BPRD Design and Construction Unit.

“The City of Boston and the Commonwealth have common goals in improving our neighborhoods’ parks and open spaces for the people of our city and state,” said Mayor Kim Janey. “By working together with our state partners, we are able to supplement our already robust investment in Boston’s parks and open spaces and provide even better outdoor facilities for residents and visitors of all ages.”

Sprague Pond shoreline
The City of Boston has received a state PARC grant to help acquire land for improved access to Sprague Pond in Hyde Park.

On October 8, the Baker-Polito Administration announced nearly $5 million in grant awards through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Grant Program administered by the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA). Any municipality with an approved Open Space and Recreation Plan such as Boston’s is eligible to apply for this program.

The BPRD applied for and was granted $750,000 for improvements to Malcolm X Park located at 150 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Roxbury. The project will create new ADA compliant park paths; most entrances will be made ADA compliant; basketball and tennis courts will be made ADA accessible; the play lot will be redesigned to include inclusive elements and a shade structure; and new interpretive signage, bike racks, and benches will be added.

In September, the EOEEA awarded over $10 million through the state’s Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) program, including an additional two grants to the BPRD. The PARC program uses a rating system to consider a project’s suitability to neighborhood needs, climate resilience, and other factors, resulting in a score that is compared to projects from other municipalities. The BPRD applies for PARC grants to obtain additional funding to improve the City’s park system. It is rare for a municipality to receive two PARC grants at one time.

“Thanks to the efforts of our Design and Construction staff, the Boston Parks and Recreation Department has been successful in applying for and receiving these significant grants,” said Boston Parks Commissioner Ryan Woods. “As a result we are going to be able to further improve Malcolm X Park in Roxbury, renovate Winthrop Playground in Dorchester, and take significant steps toward preserving the scenic and historic nature of Sprague Pond in Hyde Park.”

The first PARC grant for $400,000 will help fund the capital renovation of Winthrop Playground located at 21 Danube Street in Roxbury next to the Winthrop School.

Planned improvements include renovated basketball and multisport courts with new fencing, making the children’s play area inclusive beyond ADA requirements, and reconstructing the water spray area. A circuit for physical activities will be installed incorporating exercise stations along a walking loop around an open multi-purpose lawn area, new benches will be installed as well as game tables along Danube Street, and tree plantings will replace some trees being removed due to safety concerns. An additional eight trees will be planted for a net increase in tree canopy.

A second PARC grant for $387,164 will help fund the acquisition of land for the new Sprague Pond Shoreline Reserve in Hyde Park located at 0-4 Lakeside Avenue with frontage on Sprague Pond. Acquiring new land for parks enables the City to address underserved neighborhoods with close-to-home recreation opportunities. The City also acquires land to protect its natural, scenic, historic, cultural, and archaeological resources. 

The land is within the state-designated Ponkapoag Pond/Fowl Meadow Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Such environmentally sensitive areas get special review and consideration when state agencies are required to review development projects.

The site includes frontage along the western shoreline of Sprague Pond, which has been designated by the MA Department of Environmental Protection as a Great Pond, which allows it to receive protections under the Massachusetts Public Waterfront Act (Chapter 91). Located in a heavily developed neighborhood dominated by industrial, commercial, and residential uses, the land is currently undeveloped and vegetated with trees and grasses. It provides scenic access to Sprague Pond and to the Great Blue Hill.

This land has the potential to be a nationally significant historical, cultural, and archaeological resource area. It is within areas known as important historical assets: the Readville Industrial Area, and the former Camp Miegs Civil War-era training camp and hospital where the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the first military unit consisting of Black soldiers to be raised in the North during the Civil War, was trained. Their bravery, despite heavy losses in their first major action in the assault against Fort Wagner along the South Carolina coast, earned respect and admiration for the Black soldiers involved.

This land is also considered archaeologically sensitive for ancient Native American occupation as well as historical military, residential, or industrial uses of the land. The City’s acquisition of this land for open space and recreation provides a means to protect and preserve any significant historical and archaeological resources present there. The City will use its funding from Community Preservation Act revenues to contribute to the cost of purchasing this land, along with this state PARC grant.

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