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THE GREEN BLOG

New park dedicated in Allston

By Beth Daley
Globe Staff / July 11, 2011

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Highlights from the Globe’s environmental blog.

In these times of budget cuts, news about parks often includes staff reductions and broken equipment and infrastructure. But this week, the city of Boston opened a 1.74-acre green space behind the Honan-Allston Branch of the Boston Public Library.

The land, given to Boston by Harvard University, was once Charles River marshland and later became the site of the McNamara Concrete Co. The park has tiered areas for reading and small classes, a hill with views of Allston and Cambridge, and a quarter mile of paths that weave through largely native trees.

The park is also green - in the recycled sense: It reuses salvaged fill and collects rainwater from surface runoff to seep back into the ground, and Harvard has pledged to organically maintain it for the next decade. A fountain is made of salvaged granite lions’ heads.

The park planning and design team, which included the landscape architectural firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc., Harvard, and the Boston Redevelopment Authority, used community input to create the park. In May 2008, nearly 500 community members shared ideas with planners and designers, and 20 additional meetings, working groups, and sessions gave residents a chance to influence the final design.

“I want to thank Harvard for working with the community to transform what was a vacant industrial site into a beautiful new sustainable park that will be treasured by Allston residents and the entire city for years to come,’’ Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a statement.

Charles River finalist for international prize
The Charles River - once so dirty it turned different colors depending on the paint being manufactured on its banks - is a finalist for the International Riverprize, which annually awards $350,000 for the development and implementation of visionary and sustainable river management.

Projects from more than 20 countries applied for the award given by the International RiverFoundation of Australia. Along with the Charles, the Mattole River in California, and the Yarra River in Australia are finalists.

Matthew Reddy, International River Foundation chief executive, said: “Charles River should be congratulated for their achievement as a finalist for best river basin manager, vying for the world’s largest environmental prize creates a lot of competitive tension, with winners to join the ranks of iconic rivers like the Thames, Danube, and Mekong.’’

In the 1960s, swimming was banned, sewage overflows were common, and industrial contaminants regularly flowed in the Charles.

Even as late as the middle 1990s, rowers who fell into the river routinely received tetanus shots and antibiotics.

Today, however, the Charles is considered one of the nation’s cleanest urban rivers.

The winner will be unveiled in September and its supporters will receive a $250,000 award and a $100,000 grant to share restoration expertise with another river.