Postcard Narratives: Shoveling Snow

The winter is long, the sidewalks slippery, and public spaces, not entirely at rest, are in hibernation. This is the season to reflect on some past stories: Neighborhood Narratives. View all the stories and Get to the Point here!

This one is from Point resident and artist, Sue Grillo. And it is about snow!

Story 1 ImageStory 1 Text

 

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Kids photograph the Lot!

In addition to all their help, the community children also documented last Friday’s work at the Palmer Street Lot. Below is a selection of images they took: (credit: Point children)

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Progress at the Lot!

The first part of the Suggestion Wall is up! Help reImagine every Friday from 3 - 6pm

The first part of the Suggestion Wall is up! Help reImagine every Friday from 3 – 6pm

Kids who worked on the project sign their name on the project poster

Kids who worked on the project sign their name on the project poster

Three kids help to measure out the arc of the wall and location of the next three panels.

Three kids help to measure out the arc of the wall and location of the next three panels.

The trunks are primed. Soon they will be painted - what colors will the kids choose?

The trunks are primed. Soon they will be painted – what colors will the kids choose?

 

Stop by and have a look - across from Mary Jane Lee Park in The Point

Stop by and have a look – across from Mary Jane Lee Park in The Point

 

 

 

Reflections on Public Participation

Deborah Buelow speaks with residents

Deborah Buelow speaks with residents

Guest post by Deborah Buelow who reflects on resident participation in Mary Jane Lee Park after last Saturday’s event.

The afternoon was quite a success in all aspects: the weather, the turnout, and conversations on how to improve neighborhood spaces. With the first day of bright and warm sunshine beckoning people outdoors and an Easter egg hunt promising the collection of goodies, Mary Jane Lee Park was awash in good feelings. It was an excellent time to ask people to discuss how they view their park, and how they might see it changed. I followed Claudia and the Salem Public Space Project (SPSP) to get a sense of place: who uses the park, what do they like about the park, what could be improved?  What about that plot of land next to the park – the one where the dilapidated one story building was located – how would you use that plot now that it’s empty? And in fact that was the idea behind being there yesterday afternoon: to ask people who use this public space to participate in a survey and begin to discuss some of these questions.

After listening for a bit I began speaking to people in the context of the survey. There were some overwhelmingly parallel themes running through each person’s voice. One recurring narrative had to do with safety in the park, and how it is used at night. It seems transparency is necessary. Trees have been cut down to mitigate this problem, but more lighting and more openness would help. Another topic related to garbage, litter, overall cleanliness. The ground is dirty, there is no place for trash; the city wouldn’t pick it up if there were trash containers anyway, they said. Could a rubber playground surface help as opposed to the sand? Options are plentiful, but who would implement them? Who would pay for them?

These questions, and answers to these questions, lingered, but what really interested me were the overtones that rang throughout these conversations. The people I spoke with initially paused after I asked some of these questions: What else might you do with this park? What would you do with that unutilized plot of land over there? The initial answer was almost always: “I don’t know, I’ve never thought about it.” But somehow that makes sense: if people have no reason to consider an alternate, why would they?

This survey works in two ways, and that’s what I find most exciting about it. It will go on to influence a number of ideas that are prompted by the suggestions of the community members, and already I know Claudia and the SPSP have thoughts on how to begin to integrate some of these ideas. But most significantly I see this survey as a way to allow the community members to consider the possibility for change, and to begin to expand their thinking to allow for future improvements. And that’s an opportunity for real and beneficial change.

A Day of Participation in Mary Jane Lee Park

Egg Hunt CentralOn Saturday, March 30th, Doreen Thomas and The Friends of Mary Jane Lee Park hosted an Easter Egg hunt at noon. I arrived with Pamela Joye who has photographed the children in the park and wanted to share some prints with them. The children crowded her to view their likenesses.

Children view Pamela Joye Prints of Themselves

Children view Pamela Joye Prints of Themselves

As children searched for the candy and prize filled eggs, each family received a number and was entered into a raffle for larger prizes. With a captive audience, Salem Public Space Project took the opportunity to facilitate some surveys to gather more insights into how people feel about the park and the recently vacated lot across the street.

MJLP plan questionaire

Happily, most everyone wanted to participate! Filling out Survey to Improve Public Spaces

The surveys, while important, serve the even more significant task of introducing the subject of improving public space; conversations flowed easily on how the park used to be, the current assets, opportunities, and problems, and future possibilities. Many shared their contacts with Salem Public Space Project to join more activities, and a few volunteered their help.

Public Space Conversations between Designers and Residents

Public Space Conversations between Designers and Residents

The responses to the surveys clearly show commonalities in opinions on assets and needs in the park and general condition of the neighborhood public spaces.

Mary Jane Lee Park Questionnaire Responses - enlarge to view comments

Mary Jane Lee Park Questionnaire Responses – enlarge to view comments

Most everyone agreed on the need for more cleaning in the park. In fact, the City has yet to bring trash receptacles to the park, and so The Friends of Mary Jane Lee Park brought trash bags from home, and came to the park early in the morning to clean it up before hiding the eggs. Waste consciousness is on everyone’s mind. The children were instructed to keep the prizes, but all plastic eggs were requested back for re-use next year. The elusive question is: How can everyone be encouraged to participate to keep the neighborhood clean? 

Without trash receptacles, the Friends of Mary Jane Lee Park provided trash bags for the event

Without trash receptacles, the Friends of Mary Jane Lee Park provided trash bags 

People were also quick to observe the great community evident in the play of the children and the general feeling of community between everyone.

Children at Play

Children at Play

Teens at Play

Teens at Play

One former resident returned for the event from her new home in Swampscott as she still has family in the neighborhood and went to school with many of the parents present.

Egg hunt Participants

The most prevalent comment involved “making something for the kids,” whether that means more activities in the Mary Jane Lee Park, or a community center on the Palmer Street Lot. Some clear, common questions evolved:

What design will create and sustain a secure environment for the children in the park without putting up more fences?

What designs or actions will keep Mary Jane Lee Park clean?

How can people come together to take action and implement their common desires? 

Doreen and Egg Hunt Participants

Doreen Thomas and Egg Hunt Participants