Storm pushes neighborhood meeting on Port Norfolk clean-up to next month; permitting to proceed

With Tuesday’s snowstorm forcing the cancellation of that night’s Port Norfolk Civic Association’s meeting to discuss the $4.25 million clean-up of the Shaffer Paper site, officials said the neighborhood input session will now take place next month. A spokesman for the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) said the plan to sink the long-awaited millions into the 14-acre property and turn it into a riverside park will proceed apace. “This will not delay the permitting schedule that Commissioner Murray announced at the event last week,” Conrad Crawford, the spokesman, said in a statement.

Officials plan to spend $250,000 on permitting in fiscal year 2014, an additional $1 million on the site in fiscal 2015, and $3 million on construction in fiscal year 2016.

Mayor-elect Marty Walsh, state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, state Rep. Dan Cullinane, City Councillor Frank Baker, and officials from DCR stood in the shadow of the MBTA bridge, the Neponset River behind them, and announced the commitment last Friday. The site is off Taylor Street in the Port Norfolk neighborhood.

The agency’s plans include removing the pilings along the waterfront, along with the bulkhead and seawall. A Woburn-based firm, GEI Consultants of Woburn, is working on the parcel’s design, according to DCR. “Port Norfolk is getting its park,” said Valerie Burns, president of the Boston Natural Areas Network. “We are going to see the vision realized.”

The property, which will connect with the Neponset River Greenway trail that the agency also plans to complete, is the former home of the Shaffer Paper Company, a lumber yard, and a metal fabricating company. For some reason, the name of the parcel has been spelled two ways by local residents and DCR: Schaffer and Shaffer.

The state agency took the land through eminent domain in 1986, paying $1.9 million and spending $3 million on environmental testing and the elimination of several buildings. The grounds are considered contaminated with hazardous materials, requiring a clean-up in order for it to be used by the public.

Marty Walsh, a Dorchester state representative for the last 16 years, said he kept asking for the clean-up of the property during his tenure. “The neighbors have put up with the site for a long time, illegal dumping, and we had a barge that smashed into here, a runaway barge at one point, a couple of years ago,” he said. “So I’m really happy for the community down here to get this Shaffer paper site cleaned up finally and get a park here.” Walsh also praised Dan Hunt, an attorney and aide at the DCR who is running for Walsh’s House. Walsh said Hunt helped push the project along. “We tortured him in our office,” the mayor-elect joked.

Gov. Deval Patrick called Walsh last week to tell him the administration planned to allocate the money for the project in the governor’s capital spending proposal. Mary McCarthy, the head of the Port Norfolk Civic Association, noted that she had buttonholed Patrick at a house party when he was running for reelection and brought up the Shaffer site. Sen. Dorcena Forry thanked the neighborhood activists for pressing for the project and Councillor Baker added, “It’s the work you guys did.”