Snow Boundries

Snow Ways

Snow Ways

How does the snow change what you see? What is visible, now? What is invisible now? How do you decide where to stop shoveling? How do you know who can shovel? What does a shoveling style show?


Reality and Imagination at Palmer Street Lot


A great deal of imagination is still needed for the Palmer Street lot as it remains in a legal tangle. Last fall, we gathered over 90 suggestions of what residents hope the Palmer Lot will become in the future. It is still uncertain since its owner is still nowhere to be found, but retains the right to his property since it is current on all taxes, thanks to the mortgage company. Now, it stands, still colorful, with “community” as its tagline, but a bit of a relic before its time. As noted above: imagination is sorely needed! (and perhaps some legal knowledge wouldn’t hurt!)

An Early May Walk through the Point

As we near the end of May, breezy and calm with a dash of rain, the beginning of the month seems an era ago, with its frozen ground, snow drifts, and biting wind. A Friday afternoon walk shows the neighborhood beginning to wake after a long winter: the spring thaw characterized by trees in flower and play on asphalt.


Flowering tree on Prince Street, across from Mary Jane Lee Park.


Salem Street is for play, not just cars!


Balcony of toys ready for outside play in Mary Jane Lee Park.


The middle block between Harbor and Ward Streets reveals dramatic in-between spaces; they host play, especially on small scooters and tricycles.

Tree in bloom on Harbor Street, while the historic, abandoned building awaits its future fate...

Tree in bloom on Harbor Street, while the historic, abandoned building awaits its future fate…


A surprising view, with dramatic sky, towards Ward Street.


The future site of the Ward Street Pocket Park has been the site of informal play for over a decade.


Bright Blooms

What gives you a sense of safety?

There used to be benches everywhere. “But they took them all out because [the authorities] said: ‘Problems!’” he said. “Each corner had a bench. You could tell something used to be there from the exposed earth left over; now it’s just a dead patch.  People selling drugs at night, shootings, stabbings. But bad things happen in other places, too.”

Five tables have been placed in the middle of the park, not at the corners, and the tables are chained around the trees.

“Tell her something good!” she says. “All the kids are really close. There are a lot of things the YMCA and the community does, at least for the kids. Marathons, cookouts, birthday parties. If it’s somebody’s birthday, all the kids will be welcome. My son’s best friends are here.” she says. “Everyone knows whose kid is whose; everyone looks out for each other. There’s a lot of life here – kids need other kids to grow.”

When you look up you don’t see the chains around the trees or the trash in the grass, you just see the green canopies careless against the bright blue sky.

All quotations from an interview in Mary Jane Lee Park with Point residents. September 17, 2012 

How can you fix what is broken?

People see broken things all around the park. Trash, broken glass, torn nets on the basketball hoops, broken water fountains. “You go to any other park in this city,” says a resident “and the water fountains work. You look here, those water fountains don’t work. They haven’t worked for years.” In summers, kids use the playground sand to build castles as if they were at the beach, and they clog the pipes, but is this a reason not to fix the fountain?

All quotations from an interview in Mary Jane Lee Park with Point residents. September 17, 2012

Is there a place for creativity?

Generally, the park is half grass, half asphalt. On the asphalt portion, there are six large concrete barriers, the same ones used as highway dividers. One large concrete barrier keeps cars out of the lot. On the other side are the five others that, five years ago, were brightly painted: blue, green, yellow, orange, red. Drawings, words, scratches, of obscure meanings emerge on the blank concrete barrier: a shark, a flower, a helicopter. All surfaces are subject to act as canvases for communication.

Where does nature come in?

Twenty, twenty-five years ago, this piece of asphalt used to be a garden. It was a robust garden. It was so lush, with tall corn and an irrigation system. Back then, there was also more crime in the neighborhood. People would hide in the garden; “it was a weird maze inside.” The garden was removed and asphalt poured in its place, where no one could hide behind something someone grew. Some weeds now grow through the cracks. And, in the summer, some clinging plants embroider chain-link fences in green filigree.

All quotations from an interview in Mary Jane Lee Park with Point residents. September 17, 2012

What do signs communicate?

In 1990, Mary Jane Lee Park was called Prince Street Park, or perhaps just the park at Prince Street. People don’t remember, and even now, many simply call it “the little park.” That year talks originated in the neighborhood association to dedicate the land as proper parkland that could benefit from city services: protection, clean-up, signage. A year later, a resident of Prince Street and an active member of the Salem Harbor Community Development Coalition, Mary Jane Lee died on a late June Saturday. In 1993, the land was dedicated as proper parkland and named after her. The sign proclaims Mary Jane Lee Park even if few park goers know who she was. A long-time resident bemoans the other, hostile signs in the park: seemingly simple park hours, posted on chain-link fences. “You don’t see it in other parks.” He’s been to other parks in the city, in wealthier neighborhoods. “You don’t see those signs in the [Salem] Common.” he says.

All quotations from an interview in Mary Jane Lee Park with Point residents. September 17, 2012