Earth Day 2012

Thanks so much to the folks who came out on Friday and Saturday for the Earth Day cleanup at God’s Acre/Swan Avenue/Logan Field.

If you remember pictures from previous years (2010, 2011), this year was much less involved:

Volunteers cleaning Swan Avenue/God's Acre

Although this roll-off doesn’t look full now, by the end of the day it was:

50 cubic yard roll-off supplied by Superior Waste

One of the more interesting aspects of Saturday morning was taking down someone’s former residence/camp in the hills above Logan Field.  It was a beautiful view, but a real pain in the rear to remove:

Squatter site on Tetasset Trail near Logan Field

Most years, we are out until 3 or 4 pm; this year, we’d finished up by 12:30!

Special thanks to:

  • Dennis O’Connor of Superior Waste and Recycling, who always provides us with staff and equipment to make our work much easier
  • the REC for making it possible for us to do this cleanup for the fifth year in a row
  • Jim Kempton of DPW&P for picking up some extra bags left over from the weekend
  • Bob Q and Paul D for working so hard

We are finally at the point of complete maintenance for Swan Avenue and God’s Acre.  There’s not a lot of old dumping left, and we can likely maintain this site with the help of a few volunteers a few times a year.

So many people have helped us for the past five years, and they’ve accomplished far more than I ever thought we would.

I’m really excited that we’ve reached this stage, and I’m looking forward to helping improve some other dumped-upon sites in the years to come.

The potential to put up paradise by un-paving a parking lot

In more recreational news, there was an article in the Telegram (“Downtown visions: Development corporation begins to sketch out plans for city’s core“, April 8) about the potential for turning the McGrath parking lot (that is, the parking lot adjacent to the main library) into a park.

(If there is one parking lot in this city that is more than appropriately named, it is the one named after our former city manager, and I will oppose its removal with every fiber of my being.)

In short, part of the proposal for the Federal Square area would be to redevelop the T&G’s Federal Square parking lot to put in a residential building and parking decks with space for as much as 500 cars.  This would the McGrath park for development into something prettier.

I have no problem with pretty, and I’m always excited at the prospect of more park space, but we do not have money to care for the parks we have right now.  We only have money to develop the aforementioned aquatic facilities because of CSX; Elm Park is in a less-than-adequate state; and the downtown park we already have, the Common, is in no great state itself.

We should not add park space (or, indeed, any amenities, aquatic or otherwise) without truly taking into account the amount of time, effort, and (especially) money it will take to maintain it for years to come.

When the library was redesigned more than a decade ago, the entrance was specifically designed to open to the parking lot.  (Previously, the only entrance was the entrance on Salem Street.)  If the parking lot were removed, that entrance would only be good for park-goers.

Since we’ve long since eliminated our neighborhood libraries, the main library is the home branch for most library patrons.  Many of us have no choice but to drive or take the bus there.

For those of us who drive, the elimination of the McGrath lot would mean we’d need to park over on Federal Street, walk down Portland, cross Salem, and then walk down to the library entrance.  It’s not a straight shot for any pedestrian.  (We will leave out the need for handicapped parking at present, which I think is also of concern.)

I’d likely have a different feeling if Federal Street came all the way up to Salem Street — then you could have more of a direct route.  Or if the library opened up facing the Common — then it would be much more natural from a pedestrian perspective.

We (as a city) have no will to make serious long-term investments in our parks, and I don’t know that there’s an overwhelming clamor for another park within a 300-foot radius of the Common.

Let’s focus on figuring out how we can pay for park services without various white knights (CSX, PILOT, WBDC, etc.) before committing ourselves to another park.

Parking isn’t the problem, either

(the natural sequel to “Parking is not the problem“)

On the agenda for tomorrow night’s City Council meeting is a report about some options for pools and spray parks.

Of especial interest:

Also under consideration at this time is the development of an aquatic facility at Holmes Field, where consideration is being given to both a spray park and standard pool, whichever is deemed most appropriate. Although DPW&P is aware of neighborhood interest for a pool at Holmes Field, our consultants believe that this location as a pool site is problematic. Preliminary design shows that the site’s topography does not lend itself to the construction of a pool. Moreover, the lack of adequate on-street parking is of significant concern and will require that on-site parking, within the park, be developed. The development of a 50 space parking area will encroach on other park facilities that will need to be moved within the park or eliminated entirely.

Which brings us to a potential ‘solution’:

While the City’s long-range aquatic plan remains intact as a goal, consideration is also being given to the development of a pool at Green Hill Park. This location has a number of advantages including that Green Hill Park is centrally located and is one of the city’s premier parks; a pool at Green Hill will complement the existing Farm, playground, picnic facilities, ball fields, walking trails and Vietnam Memorial, that currently exist to create a “critical mass” of activities to attract families; and Green Hill Park also offers ample parking and easily services residents from Districts 1 and 2. Obviously more public input is needed before serious steps are taken to develop a pool at Green Hill Park but the benefits at this location certainly warrant further consideration.  

The funds from which the Holmes Field aquatic facility would come are a CSX Neighborhood Improvement Fund.

The pools that have been dismantled and which we will hopefully replace were neighborhood pools.

In the memo’s discussion of the East Park spray park, there was no concern about the lack of on-street parking on Shrewsbury Street, which — depending on the time of day — can have very little available parking.  So why is parking an issue when discussing Holmes Field?

The pools as they once existed were neighborhood pools.  The intention was that folks in the immediate area could walk or bike to the pools, and that the pools would be located in areas with a relatively high population density.  The point was that folks should be able to cool off in the summer with as few barriers as possible.

So neighbors — not just in the East Side, but everywhere — should be concerned when the discussion quickly moves from “we’d need to do a spray park rather than a pool at Holmes Field” to “aw, heck, let’s just do a pool at Green Hill Park.”

Green Hill Park, it’s true, “offers ample parking.”  It is not, however, “easily” accessible to “residents from Districts 1 and 2.”

If you live to the north of Green Hill Park, you cannot drive there easily.  And if you don’t have a car, the park can be pretty inaccessible.

(And the whole point of neighborhood pools is that you shouldn’t need a car to get there.)

Green Hill Park is a wonderful park, but it’s not a neighborhood park, and we have already paved and built over far too much of its “green.”

The problem with Holmes Field is not a lack of parking spaces.  It’s that we don’t even remember why we have these pools, and that we are way too callous when it comes to taking land from our “flagship” parks to erect buildings and create more parking spaces.