Greenspace and Splashpad at Mary Jane Lee Park


Splashpad Plan MJLP 2014.09.05_Page_1

The City of Salem secured a $200,000 state grant to place a splashpad in one of its parks. Having worked in the Point neighborhood through the Salem Public Space Project, and now affiliated with Friends of Mary Jane Lee Park, I am excited that the City has chosen Mary Jane Lee Park for the splashpad that has long been desired by residents. A wonderful prospect for the kids!

This is one of the biggest public space investments in the Point neighborhood in many years. Unfortunately, the location of the new amenity comes at a great cost. Although the park is half greenspace and half asphalt, the City plans to locate the impermeable surface of the splashpad in place of the green-space. We, at Friends of Mary Jane Lee Park, propose it be located on the asphalt.

Splashpad Plan MJLP 2014.09.05_Page_2

Although the City has offered to recreate green space next spring, it cannot be as large as the current common green space. The current location reveals a mismanagement of resources: why tear up green space, only to relocate it later? In addition, the City Proposed location of the spalshpad will result in cutting down the mature evergreen tree. The plans stipulate the addition of more trees, but they do not replace a mature tree for its benefits to mitigating air pollution. With the current configuration, the park parcel is not large enough to include all of the planned (and welcome) activities by the City that include: Splashpad, Children Ride Track, Playground, Greenspace, and Parking. Our proposal can include all of these activities and the largest possible surface area of permeable green space. Furthermore, the splashpad will serve as water play three months out of the year – the rest it will be a concrete, impermeable surface.

Friends of Mary Jane Lee Park have gathered over 250 signatures of residents that prefer we relocate the splashpad to keep the green space!

Spring play by the pine tree

Spring play by the evergreen tree

The Point Visioning Plan, developed by a coalition of state, city, and neighborhood groups, stipulates that “greening” the Point is a top priority. Currently, the neighborhood has the least amount of distributed green space. The neighborhood is four times as dense as the rest of Salem, and many residents don’t have outside space, front or back yards; they go to the park to enjoy green space.

Despite meetings and emails, we have not been given any concrete reason as to how and why the proposed location was determined. The City asserts we need fast action as the splashpad needs to be completed by December or we can lose the funding! The first public meeting that showed the location was on July 28th. That was only about six weeks ago. There will be another public meeting next Tuesday. Come support the new splashpad amenity and maintaining green space in the Point!

Park and Recreation Commission Meeting August 19, 2014, at 6:45 p.m. 5 Broad Street (Senior Center)

Advertisements

Mary Jane Lee Park Clean Up Day

IMG_9772

Informal conversations and a lot of clean up at the park

Saturday, August 30th, from nine to noon the community joined Friends of Mary Jane Lee Park and cleaned up the park! We sifted sand, removed graffiti, pulled weeds, raked grass, and of course, picked up trash. In addition to residents, we were joined by Councilpersons William Legault, at large, and Heather Famico, Ward 2.

IMG_9766

Some of the women of Friends of Mary Jane Lee Park, who organized the clean-up.

IMG_9773

After the clean-up, participants line up for pizza, juice, and cookies.

IMG_9757

Heather Famico, Ward 2 Councilwoman, was impressed with the cleaning efforts of her two young helpers!

IMG_9738

Sand sifting: sounds easier than it is!

IMG_9754

Nature needed a little trim too.

IMG_9745

Doreen Thomas, president of Friends of Mary Jane Lee Park, sure knows how to orchestrate!

IMG_9741

Linda Locke, Friends of Mary Jane Lee Park, welcomes Councilman Bill Legault to the effort.

IMG_9733

Helpers, and posters, brooms galore.

There was plenty of conversation too about the future of the park, especially since the City of Salem recently obtained a grant for a new splash-pad – a water based sculpture where children (and adults) will be able to play. You may have seen the Ring Fountain on the Boston Greenway that draws crowds on summer days. Residents have ideas about the shape and location of the welcome addition.

IMG_9776

Participants look at splash pad examples.

IMG_9749

Zena, Friends of Mary Jane Lee Park, points out her favorite spalsh pad in Albion Park, Somerville.

Have you been to any of these splash-pads around Boston?

Splashpad Precedents xs

The Point Action Plan

draft page 1_Page_1

Read and comment on the Point Action Plan! After many focus group meetings and two large community meetings, the MAPC, The CIty of Salem, the PNA, and the NSCDC have released a Draft Plan for Public Review.

It is lengthy, but go to the table of contents, find what you care about and comment below – the plan creators will hear your comments!

SalemPointVisionActionPlan_Draft_7-1.8

Especially Interesting are the maps generated during round table discussions. Salem Public Space Project helped to lead the Open Space discussion – what are your ideas?

Put Your Ideas on the Map!

Put Your Ideas on the Map!

draft page 1_Page_2 draft page 1_Page_4

 

Walking the Point

It’s hard to go into a place without an agenda. As I begin my walk on a Sunday morning in late April, my agenda is to photograph The Point for “The Beauty of the Point” series, (a fledgling in April). I imagine big beauty to make a big point: the neighborhood is misunderstood and here’s a photo of an ideal tree lined street to prove it.

Perhaps I am still an outsider. Perhaps I don’t see certain things. Or by simple bad luck, I miss all sorts of harmonious happenings occurring just seconds before I happen along. Or perhaps my words cannot carry to you the subtle beauty I do find; small things show joy, activity, striving, an enjoyment of life, a smile for the almost spring day.

The surrounding reality dominates these small things and, while beautiful, they tell a bittersweet tale: no one goes into a “good” neighborhood to photograph “good things.” Of course, people may go there to also set the record straight and show the loneliness of still idealized suburban bliss. Set to capture the suburban banality, the photographer unwittingly smiles at the blooming azaleas. Here, I come in search of flowers and trip over the trash. In both instances, the case for a place is complicated by its own complexity. This is what I found walking The Point in April.

The flower growing between asphalt cracks encourages me to bring out my camera. Still on the edge of the neighborhood, I walk along the path traced by Palmer Cove shore. The southern edge of The Point is not a distinct line, but depends on perception and changes like the tides.

The most popular community garden in Salem, on the edge of The Point, is alive with a half dozen people talking, planning, painting, plotting and potting. Perhaps there will be a version of this garden in the center of The Point and not on the edge, soon enough. My first stop is to look upon the sunflower bud we planted two days ago; it lies as if slain on the nutrient rich soil we brought to help it grow. Across the way in Mary Jane Lee Park, the bulletin board is up and clean but unused. With disappointment at eyelevel, I look up: the street trees relish the day and their young chartreuse buds reach up to the sky to contrast it, and my perception. This is Dow Street.

Flowers are resilient

Flowers are resilient

Community garden volunteers - springtime actions

Community garden volunteers – springtime actions

Some fertile soil, but the sunflower didn't make it

Some fertile soil, but the sunflower didn’t make it

Community Events - waiting

Community Events – waiting

Blooms on Dow Street

Blooms on Dow Street

06_Dow Street sign

I then turn North and walk along Congress Street – a potential bustling business thoroughfare, if you are to believe the musings of an older gentlemen discussing possibilities for the area at The Point Visioning meeting from several weeks before. On the corner of Harbor and Congress streets, the branches of a mature tree frame an old mural placed three stories above street level. Its bright colors convey a favorite message: this is a good neighborhood. A play car speeds down Harbor Street towards me as I cross, and some of the bodegas are open for business.

Dow Street view west

Dow Street view west

08_Harbor Street sign

Harbor Street mural through trees

Harbor Street mural through trees

Toy car speeds down Harbor Street

Toy car speeds down Harbor Street

I keep walking. On the other side of Harbor Street, after passing Park Street, a narrow concrete alley and the least park-like of any of the streets, I happen along two novena candles placed on the sidewalk in front of another sort of mural. This mural, at sidewalk level, is different in many ways from the city sponsored one celebrating community. The unambiguous symbols of “R.I.P” on a gravestone and the candles on the sidewalk speak of the tragedy that occurred on this very spot. The message of the earlier official mural depended on the bright colors more than the content. Here these deeper colors of brown, black, red, and green against the masonry canvas communicate somber remembrance, but the direct message it what stays in your mind.

Park Street is the least vegetated of all these streets

Park Street is the least vegetated of all these streets

The informal mural on Dow Street

The informal mural on Dow Street

Thoughts of this mural occupy me as I aimlessly walk and snap photos: on Prince Street, a shell of an ancient television set provides a tiny shelf for tiny plants to grow; on Ward Street, parked cars perfectly frame the spire of Immaculate Conception, the neighborhood church.

old television set face with new plant growth

old television set face with new plant growth

view to Immaculate Conception, the community church

view to Immaculate Conception, the community church

As I walk back down Congress Street, I come to the northern edge of The Point. Here, a fragment of a park uses a checkerboard pattern to distribute the slight trees, brick-like paving, concrete paving, concrete benches or barriers, all organized along hard lines. This small, sterile park is the threshold to the neighborhood along Congress Street; a descriptive tourist board hints at the neighborhood’s history, but this official place feels incredibly out of place. The park is an attempt at improvement, perhaps, but only symbolically.

A threshold park?

A threshold park?

official history

official history

In this dense neighborhood, space is a premium, and this piece is not useful for play or for parking and so it remains unintegrated and unused. I walk along Peabody Street and I see layers of play through chain-link fences that provide a peculiar layer of transparency and security: the small diagonal frames beg one to look through. Somehow, these fences that frame the intermingling of disparate elements provide a greater opportunity for dialogue than the straight-jacketed park.

at play

at play

Rusted gate to city land of electrical plant

Rusted gate to city land of electrical plant

artificial flowers - layers of paradox

artificial flowers – layers of paradox

layers of nature and industry

layers of nature and industry

An older mural, and the new one on the right

An older mural, and the new one on the right

22_how many sponsors does it take to paint a mural

The edges of the neighborhood certainly show the most outside investment when compared to the central streets. A new official mural, opposite the relatively new Peabody Street Park, is also unreachably high on the third story of the blank brick side of the building. At eyelevel, a plaque highlights the many donors that made this mural possible. The message here too is familiar: this is a good neighborhood. It’s not a bad message, but it must be up high, where the contrasting messages that lie closer to the ground can’t contradict it.

View from Peabody Park, looking towards The Point

View from Peabody Park, looking towards The Point

As I look back towards the neighborhood, I begin to accept the competing narratives of the area, even as much of my work strives to bolster the good – much like the City Officials. But how can this attempt for improvement be robust and not mere lip-service? One truth is that those seeking to improve must first listen – this walk was an attempt to listen.

Are the officials listening to what the community really has to say? How can the official line engage the multifaceted community threads?

How can the community more effectively express their desires?

How could such a dialogue lead official efforts to truly benefit the community they claim to want to serve?