Geneva Cliffs work completed, opening this weekend

It is the culmination of years of work by several community organizations, four city departments, and dozens of donors. Over $400,000 in improvements to the Geneva Cliffs Urban Wild have been completed, and the new park's grand opening is scheduled for Saturday morning.

"It took a lot of effort because people for a long time didn't have any vision that it would be an asset," said Sherry Flashman, a consultant on the project working with the Dorchester Bay EDC.

The ideas for turning the land into a park began circulating as far back as 2000, but began gaining real traction with work on the site in the past three years. Several significant barriers had to be overcome.

Jim Hunt III, chief of Environmental and Energy Services for the city, hurdled one of those by brokering a deal with NSTAR, which owns a chunk of the land, to clean it up and allow the community to have access to it. That, and the efforts of people like Davida Andelman of the now defunct Dorchester Housing and Open Space Action Team (DHAT) and Myra Durand of Greater Four Corners Action Coalition (GFCAC) to garner support for the project from abutters to the land, opened the door to funding from the city's Department of Neighborhood Development and private foundations.

And there's still a lot of work to be done, according to park advocates. GFCAC is working to bring more programming into the park and others are working to make the park a destination for environmental education for the Holland and Marshall elementary schools. Flashman said the working group is still advocating for new sidewalks around the park, trashcans to help control litter, and other improvements to the intersection.

Particular attention is being paid to a case in housing court between the city and Star Five Oil, which has its headquarters in front of the wild. The Inspectional Services Department is seeking an injunction that would force the company to stop parking its fleet of oil trucks on the wild and pay a backlog of fines for doing so. Behind the scenes, city representatives have met with the owners of Star Five multiple times to help relocate the business, but owner James Patterson has said that a suitable place has not yet been found. The date of that trial has yet to be set.

There is also a desire to make a "gentleman's agreement" with NSTAR for the community use of their land more permanent.

Another adjoining property, owned by Carol Drayton, is listed for sale for $650,000 and zoned residential. According to Flashman, efforts by Dorchester Bay to buy the property at a lower price have so far been spurned by Drayton.

The grand opening celebration will start at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday with a clean-up and planting, the mayor is scheduled to show up around 11:30 and a tour of the park will follow.