Push made to re-name Cronin-Wainwright Park for Loesch family

Rev. Bill Loesch, back left, stopped by Cronin/Wainwright Park last year with state Rep. Russell Holmes, third from left, a few friends and neighbors, and his daughter Cynthia, far right. Photo courtesy Loesch family

While city workers continue to refurbish Cronin/Wainwright Park in the St. Mark’s neighborhood, some nearby residents say they hope to see the playground reopen next year with a new name: that of Dr. Rev. Bill Loesch, a longtime park supporter and social activist.

The proposal for a name change to Dr. Loesch Family Park was announced and endorsed by District 4 City Councillor Charles Yancey last week in his monthly newsletter. City Councillor-At-Large Ayanna Pressley also supports the change. A petition asking approval of the proposal has been making its way around the neighborhood for several months and has so far received more than 500 signatures.

Long known popularly as Wainwright Park, for the street that marks it western edge, the 2.24-acre site has borne the name of James L. Cronin, a Dorchester man who was killed in action in World War I, since 1922. A memorial to another war hero, 20-year-old Navy Corpsman Joseph F. Keenan, who was killed in action in Korea, is sited in the park. Under the revamping plan, the Keenan stone memorial will be moved to a new place of honor on the grounds.

The $875,000 reconstruction of the park is due to be finished by next June.

Yancey points to the Loesch family’s “many years of service and his commitment to the park and community in general” as good reasons to re-name the park in Rev. Loesch’s honor. He was active in civil rights issues in Boston, marched side-by-side with Martin Luther King Jr., and rode to school with students during the height of the 1970s busing crisis in Boston.

More recently, Loesch and his daughter Cynthia have been outspoken civic leaders in and around Codman Square.

Rev. Loesch has lived across from the park on Brent Street, which defines the southern edge of the park, for 27 years and has played a key role in rallying the neighborhood for improvements to the grounds, first by founding the Park Partners group and later by calling for continued city support to make the park a safe place for neighbors to meet, a public amentity, he said, that is needed now more than ever.

“These days people spend too much time in their houses, they go to work, they go home,” Loesch said. “The thing is people never get to go out, to talk to their neighbors. We need a place for people to meet and be social again.”

Loesch commended his fellow neighbors and city officials for coming together and developing a plan for the park that now incorporates more benches and an oval path that he hopes will facilitate more chances for neighbors to get to know each other. It’s a design Loesch says the city resisted during the last park update in 1992 for fear the added seating would attract drug dealers into the area. While he said that threat has not completely vanished, he credits the parks increased usage and neighborhood supervision for making the design viable.

The park “has always been a popular place, but the city doesn’t always listen to what we want,” Loesch said. “But this time, the city really did. Cathy [Parks department project manager Cathy Baker-Eclipse] was awesome.”

Loesch said he had earlier suggested changing the name to Peace Park or President Barack Obama Peace Park, but had no idea his neighbors already had his name in mind. While Loesch said he was honored by the attention and felt the new name would encourage people “from two all the way up to people older than me” to make use of the space, he said he wouldn’t be surprised to continue to hear the park’s popular name around the neighborhood.

“The park already has two names on it and everyone calls it Wainwright Park; I think a lot of people are still going to call it that.”

City officials said the Parks Department is expected to address the possible name change during a meeting in January.