Martin Richard remembered at opening of Martin’s Park
Soap bubbles floated into a dazzling sky above the Fort Point Channel on Saturday, as children’s shouts and music from an all-female mariachi band filled the air, and a stilt-walker in a dress of iridescent fish scales with gossamer wings greeted visitors.
It was a scene that would have delighted any child, and a tribute to an 8-year-old who couldn’t be among the hundreds climbing, swinging, or filling sticky mouths with cotton candy.
The children, parents, grandparents, politicians, and neighbors had come to celebrate the opening of Martin’s Park at the Smith Family Waterfront, a memorial to Martin Richard, killed on another gorgeous day in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
“It’s a very peaceful place,” Martin’s older brother, Henry Richard, 17, told reporters at the park, adjacent to the Boston Children’s Museum. “I just really like that it promotes the message of inclusion and peace, and it’s a very beautiful place.”
Henry Richard performed Saturday with his rock band, FooL, and with assistance from his sister, Jane, who sang Coldplay’s “Yellow” with backup from the band.
“It’s an honor for us to perform here on such a meaningful day. . . . We’re just [grateful] for everyone being so welcoming to us and having us here on this special day,” he said.
Katy Kelly, 51, of Dorchester said her family worships at St. Ann’s Parish, where the Richards are also congregants, and has known the family for many years.
Kelly, who attended the opening with her husband, their son and daughter, and friends from the neighborhood, reflected on Martin’s short life as she looked around at the park built in his name.
“It was just such a tragedy, and obviously my family and our community was absolutely heartbroken for the Richard family when it happened,” she said.
“I just think this park is just an amazing tribute to Martin and everything he stood for,” Kelly added later. “The Richard family themselves [are] so deserving, and they’re such a wonderful family. It’s such a beautiful place to come with your children and let them play and enjoy everything.”
Brockton resident Valerie Dottin, 62, brought two grandchildren to the park.
“We saw it on the news this morning that they were having this grand opening; I said, ‘We’re going to do Boston,’ ” Dottin said. “And what greater place to start than this? . . . It’s absolutely beautiful.”
Dottin has been trying to explain the Marathon bombings to her 9-year-old granddaughter, Londyn Allen, and has struggled to describe the tragedy in a way the child can understand.
“I’m going to try to handle it without letting her have nightmares about it,” she said. “It’s hard.”
On Saturday, Londyn was mostly focused on riding a large swing shared with her cousin, Lorenzo Allen, 7, and several other children.
She admitted it was “a little bit” difficult to stay on the crowded disc but nonetheless said, “It’s fun.” Lorenzo agreed that his favorite part of the play area was “that swingy thing.”
“It’s a great memorial,” their grandmother said of the park. “Something positive out of something negative.”
Vivian Li, who headed the Boston Harbor Association until 2015 and has long worked to improve the city’s waterfront spaces, predicted that the park would have a transformative effect on the South Boston Seaport.
“When we had talked about having a park at this site decades ago, we never could have envisioned something that was as inclusive, and innovative, and full of such joy as this park,” she said. “It is now a destination park. If we didn’t think there were enough people coming to the Seaport, this is going to bring so many more people.”
Landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh designed the park with help from the Richard family.
The layout includes multiple play areas, with several spots for climbing and sliding, and a life-sized wooden replica of a pirate ship.
Around a fence Saturday were banners with messages that included “Thank you Boston” and “Choose kindness.”
Between those, another banner conveyed an idea written with the simplicity and sincerity of a child who would never grow up to see this park or those who would stop to consider his words.
“No more hurting people,” the banner read. “Peace.”