City asks community input on rehab of Savin Hill Park

It doesn’t take an expert to see that with its crumbling walkways, overgrown brush, graffiti, and litter, Savin Hill Park is in dire need of updating.

The Boston Parks Department recently secured nearly $250,000 to fix up passive areas of the park and the specific areas to be improved will be finalized at a meeting next month that will offer “the chance for the community to come together to see what can be feasible based on the community’s needs and wants,” said Ryan Woods, spokesperson for the Boston Parks Department.

The meeting will be held on Thurs., Sept. 4, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Cristo Rey Boston High School on Savin Hill Avenue.

“We want to make sure,” said Woods, “that we’re creating an open space that’s great for programming and for positive use for the community.”

Of the funds, $28,000 will be used for design, with the remaining $215,000 to be spent on construction work. The city’s proposed updates include pathway and grading improvements as well as drainage restoration, all pending a final okay from community members.

Once decisions are squared away at the meeting, the city will take bids on a contract with the hope for a groundbreaking in the spring, Woods said, and a wrap-up of construction by the fall.

While the list of potential improvements for the park is long, and many want to see upgrades to the crumbling tennis and basketball courts, neighbors agree on the need for overgrown brush and brambles to be cleared, as well as tree care and general walkway maintenance, said Heidi Moesinger, who lives near the park.

“The park is clearly one of the gems of the Boston parks system,” said Bill Walczak, who lives next to the property and has organized annual cleanups over the last three decades. “But it’s been largely ignored because it’s mainly a passive park. People travel there to walk around but there’s not much, outside of basketball and tennis courts. There’s not a lot of organized activities.”

Savin Hill’s summit offers sweeping views of the Blue Hills and Boston Harbor, and once some of the invasive plants and vegetation are cleared away, visitors should be able to catch sight of the Boston skyline, said Lauren Bryant, project manager for the Parks Department.

In that regard, Eileen Boyle, head of the Columbia Savin Hill Civic Association, hopes the path to the hilltop will be made handicap accessible while the park’s wild character is maintained. “I hope they’re mostly cleaning up around the edges at the top of the hill,” Boyle said. “I want the natural state of the park to be there.”

This meeting is the latest step in the Parks Department’s community outreach process to update the park. As a result of previous meetings, department crews have begun removing graffiti from Roxbury pudding stone outcroppings and other parts of the park, said Bryant.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement so it’s great that the city has decided to focus some attention on the non-baseball or soccer field parks,” Walczak said. Once the park is cleaned up, flat areas could be used for concerts, Walczak said, while another spot currently overgrown with thorn bushes, once cleared, could make a prime picnic spot – all possible come next summer.