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North End group calls for improved landscaping in Greenway parks

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  April 11, 2013 04:03 PM

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Daffodils on the Greenway.jpg

Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com

Daffodils planted last November by the Friends of the North End Parks have recently begun blooming on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.

The Friends of the North End Parks has renewed a call to redesign planting beds in the neighborhood’s Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway parks.

The Friends group was formed last summer, with a mission to improve horticulture in the two North End Parks between Haymarket Square and North Street. In its first major project, it recruited dozens of volunteers to plant more than 10,000 daffodil bulbs in the Greenway parks last Nov. 2 and 3. With warming weather over the past couple of weeks, those flowers have begun to blossom.

The conservancy later rebuffed the group’s request for permission plant more perennials at its own expense, though, as well as a draft proposal for a redesign of the parks’ horticulture.

At a meeting with North End residents last week, Jesse Brackenbury, chief operating officer and acting executive director of the conservancy, told Nate Swain, president of the friends group, that he was open to the idea of a landscape redesign that would include feedback from North End residents. At a Tuesday night board meeting, Swain sought to build upon that message of cooperation.

“The friends really care about these Greenway parks, and we would really love to work with the Greenway Conservancy and really make these parks better than they are,” Swain said.

Swain, a North End resident since 2000, said he had participated in early planning sessions for the parks, and at that time the design for the park’s boxwood beds seemed sufficient. “Anything was better than the highway” that stood there before, he said, referring to the elevated Central Artery dismantled during the Big Dig.

But having lived with the parks for several years, he said, he believed the time had come to raise expectations.

“We love the fountains. We love the pathways. We love the lawn. The pergola could use some work, but it is what it is,” he said. “Everyone seems to enjoy the space, and the horticulture — it’s nice but it could definitely use a little bit more.”

Georgia Murray, president of the board, said the conservancy wants to work with friends groups and has partnered with groups in other neighborhoods adjacent to the Greenway. She cautioned, though, that it is “a huge undertaking to redo the boxwood beds. … To do that, we need to figure out if we can make that commitment to really get the design right and really done.”

The open pergolas, which stand along the northeastern edges of both parks and provide structure but not shade, were another issue raised last week at the North End community forum, and at earlier meetings. On Tuesday, Murray announced that the conservancy will allocate $15,000 for the purchase of about 11 umbrellas to provide shade at tables set up along the pergolas.

The umbrellas should arrive by June, according to Linda Jonash, director of planning and design for the conservancy.

A discussion of other potential park improvements took up much of the meeting, as board members brainstormed ideas for drawing more visitors to the park, especially during the winter months.

Murray said creating an ice-skating rink at Dewey Square had been a previous suggestion, and that she had long wanted to see a greenhouse constructed that could be used to teach young people about sustainable agriculture.

Other ideas included bicycling and jogging paths; partnering for events with other organizations statewide, such as the Tanglewood music festival; building upon an existing relationship with the Berklee College of Music to bring more live performances to the Greenway; and more athletic events, such as a volleyball tournament.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow the North End on Twitter: @YourNorthEnd.
Follow Downtown on Twitter: @YTDowntown.

Nate Swain at Greenway Conservancy meeting.jpg

Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com

Nate Swain, president of the Friends of the North End Parks, addressed the board of the directors of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy at its meeting Tuesday night.

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