On waterfront, Trustees survey says Bostonians want parks over development
Amid calls to build a signature park on the South Boston Waterfront, a new survey by one of the leading proponents found that residents prefer parks over more development along Boston Harbor, because of the health and environmental benefits.
The survey, by the Trustees of Reservations, a conservation advocacy group, found that 85 percent of nearly 500 residents polled believe that Boston’s waterfront is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and two-thirds said parks would improve the environment.
Two thirds of respondents said the city needs more open and public spaces, and 63 percent said parks and open spaces were very or extremely helpful in building communities.
“This survey demonstrates that Bostonians clearly understand and value open space that benefits climate resilience, and support increasing resources to address these challenges,” said Barbara Erickson, the Trustees’ president and CEO.
The survey was part of the Trustees One Waterfront Initiative, a new effort to be announced this week in Boston to promote open space, particularly along the waterfront, that could help combat climate change while promoting cultural and civic life in the city.
“The Trustees have been studying potential open-space solutions that protect the city while opening up its waterfront to all,” said Nick Black, managing director for the One Waterfront Initiative, adding that the survey confirms “the fact that climate-resilient open space is a priority for our community.”
Parks advocates such as the Trustees, which own and oversee conservation land in the state, have called for the planting of more trees citywide and the development of more parks, including in East Boston, where the Piers Park series has transformed the neighborhood.
The Trustees are working in partnership with the Massachusetts Port Authority to develop Piers Park III.
Finding land in South Boston’s coveted Seaport District has been far more challenging, as developers in recent years have snatched up property in the booming real estate market.
The Trustees have expressed interest in developing a park at city-owned property that is known as Dry Dock #4, by the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion concert venue, although the city anticipates using the property as a staging area for the reconstruction of the Long Island bridge.
Erickson said her organization and other park proponents also have longer-term visions for world-class-designed parks that could be incorporated into development along Fort Point Channel, including the rebuilding of the Northern Avenue Bridge.
Imagine an iconic park, an extension of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, that wraps around Fort Point Channel and in some cases could be built inside the channel, she said.
“We’re trying to find those spaces that are really and truly destinations,” she said, pointing to the acclaimed Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York and Millennium Park in Chicago.
Sara Myerson, director of planning for the Boston Planning & Development Agency, said the One Waterfront Initiative and the survey mirror the work the city has mapped out under its Imagine Boston 2030 strategic plan and Climate Ready Boston, a resiliency plan that identifies areas that would benefit from open space conservation and parks, including in South Boston.
“Through input we’ve received, the community has expressed an understanding of the risks of climate change and the threat of coastal floods, and a preference for green solutions that maintain Boston’s valued connections and access to the harbor,” Myerson said in a statement.
She said the city is working with “a wide range of stakeholders, including the Trustees, on a set of strategies with the goal of protecting our entire city.” That plan is slated to be announced in the fall, she said.
Erickson acknowledged the costs of building and maintaining a park, particularly in such a hot real estate neighborhood. Estimates have ranged from $20 million to $50 million for a park in the Seaport.
Dry Dock #4, at six acres, is more than quadruple the size of the new park built in honor of Martin Richard, the youngest Boston Marathon bombing victim. It was built in the neighborhood at a cost of about $15 million.
Erickson, of the Trustees, said the city is facing a “pivotal opportunity” to build a world-class park on the waterfront.
“The will is there,” she said. “It’s an amazing moment, that so many people in Boston are interested in supporting this.”