Dot Park to get national historic recognition

Move over Central Park, Dorchester Park is about to be on equal footing.

In a move that the Dorchester Park Association (DPA) has been trying to make for years, Dorchester Park has been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. In the next 45 days a bit of Washington bureaucracy will take place before the park is placed under federal protection, much like Central Park or Mount Rushmore, or any number of famous historic places throughout the country.

"We are excited, things are moving for us, which is great," said Jane Boyer, DPA president. The group has been working on this for three years. "One of our goals was to do this so we could preserve Dorchester Park for the future."

Dot Park was nominated to the register by Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin and the Massachusetts Historical Council. The Park still has to be declared part of the list by the National Parks Services in Washington, but that is a mere formality, said Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Galvin.

"The basic protection for the property now is that if any work is done on it that it requires state or federal funding or permitting, whatever that work is, has to be reviewed," said McNiff. "It doesn't prevent a change to it, but it does require that any change be reviewed to see what impact it would have on the historic nature of the design."

"It doesn't give that much power but it's a good designation to have," said DPA board member Bill O'Connell. "Because if someone wants to do something unusual, they know they'll have a fight on their hands."

Frederick Law Olmsted designed Dorchester Park in 1891, the same designer of the Emerald Necklace and New York's Central Park. The DPA had already had it designated a landmark with the city and the state, but the federal level carries a bit more weight, said Boyer.

"This will help us to be able to apply for more grants," she said. "Our mission is to try and preserve the trees that are there, and we are hoping to start, by 2009, to plant at least a tree a year."

In September, the DPA raised $67,000 at their Gala, and with an additional $10,000 grant, they have begun to take the steps to start a foundation that will provide the park with trees and help in perpetuity.

Dot Park serves all facets of life in Dorchester. Regular Little League games are played on its two baseball diamonds. This summer saw tennis and reading with the Tenacity Program on its two hard courts. Every year the Police Union trots out a team of softball wizards to face the fearsome Dorchester Board of Trade in a match for Family Fun Day. And every day people go there to get away. Now it will all be done in a nationally recognized respite.

"I think it is wonderful for Dorchester," said Mary Hines of the City's Parks Department. "We just make people aware and let them know it is even better than we thought it is."