Big changes are in store for Wainwright Park in the St. Mark’s Parish area of Dorchester as a group of neighborhood and city leaders have begun to draft plans for a redesign of the 2.24-acre site.
The project has received $415,000 from the city capital budget for construction and was awarded an additional $500,000 grant from the state’s Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities program, with $460,000 of that sum dedicated to construction costs. Construction on the $875,000 project is expected to begin in August and be finished by June 2012.
Cathy Baker-Eclipse, the city’s Parks and Recreation department’s project manager for Wainwright Park, said that Monday night’s meeting at the Epiphany School, which attracted over 25 people, was intended to inform residents about the playground’s existing conditions as well as air opportunities and discuss any constraints park designers could face during the redesign.
Two additional informational meetings will take place, with the next meeting scheduled for Feb. 16 and the third to follow in March to present a more complete plan for resident review.
Baker-Eclipse described the renovation time frame as “quite a generous construction schedule.”
The next meeting will feature mock images based on some of the ideas heard during Monday’s discussions and will give locals the opportunity to weigh pros and cons.
Cynthia Loesch, president of the Codman Square Neighborhood Council, said that her group has been working with the city’s Parks Department for years to renovate the neglected park, which has a softball and Little League field, basketball court with lighting, and play equipment.
According to Loesch, the group circulated a petition that shows “residents are really upset that this park has been neglected since 1992.”
City Councillor Maureen Feeney said that the community’s enthusiasm for a renovation demonstrated to the city that it was time to improve the park. “It became really clear to us that we had people who were really invested again in the activities in the park,” Feeney said.
Much of the talk on Monday evening concerned the basketball court and how to improve it. Brent Street resident Ivan Liriano and others were vocal about the state of the court and offered several suggestions to the design team while attendees also expressed support for a second court for children, which would lower their exposure to older players. Both a half and full court for children were discussed.
Lighting at the park, officially named Cronin Wainwright Park, was another top priority. Residents expressed their support for additional lights both at the basketball court and in a lesser-used northern corner of the park, which some residents said is utilized by drug dealers.
The city is contracting with the design firm CBA Architects to do the renovation. CBA’s Clara Batchelor led Monday’s discussion and recorded the feedback residents offered.
The park is currently used informally by a number of nearby schools, programs, and institutions. The question of eliminating the softball field was brought up and may be included in one of the optional plans. City officials said that the softball field is not currently used by official leagues.
“I never see that field get used,” Liriano said.
One suggestion that was met with near unanimous applause and support was the removal of the chain link fence around the park. Baker-Eclipse mentioned that one of the project managers refers to Wainwright as “the prison yard” because of the fence.
Alternatives discussed included a “green fence” including vegetation and a lower decorative fence.
Feeney jokingly warned meeting attendees that making the park too desirable could draw people from other areas to Wainwright.