With a yew and haw and a black cohosh, neighbors of the Shawmut T station on the Red Line celebrated the culmination of an over a decade-long struggle last Saturday. Where once stood decrepit warehouses and flooded sidewalks now grows a medicinal herb garden with informational plaques and 36 plant varieties.
"I really got active because I was trying to meet a man," admitted Jenny Moye to a crowd of her neighbors and a handful of pols including Mayor Thomas Menino and Councillors Charles Yancey and Maureen Feeney. Moye was among the first to come up with the garden idea in the late 90s. "Well, I met a man and we got a garden out of it."
Moye is credited with dogged determination for bottom-lining the push for the garden, but dozens of other volunteers were involved over the years and several obstacles were overcome. Around $122,000 in additional funding was eked out of city to fund the informative herb-walk along the walkway from Mather Street to the station, the T built the sidewalks and the Codman Square Health Center signed the dotted line to make sure it will be maintained.
The battle for improvements at the Shawmut was inextricably tied to the station improvements at all the Red Line stations in Dorchester. Moye began advocating for it in the late 90s, when all the Red Line stations were in poor shape. Pillars in the stations were crumbling, water damage was spreading and most stations had limited access for those with disabilities.
One resident was quoted in the Nov. 18, 1999 edition of the Reporter as saying, "Realtors tell people to get off at Ashmont, because Shawmut is such a pit."
But at the same community meeting where that was said, Moye was already sharing work Shawmut neighbors had done to encourage the T and the state legislature to improve the station. The now-dormant Dorchester Allied Neighborhood Associations helped spread her gospel so others could replicate the neighborhood pressure at Ashmont, Fields Corner and Savin Hill.
Today, the garden is a well-tended pathway of medicinal herbs, such as black cohosh, in colonial times a certain sign that its owner was a witch, and Yew, an evergreen that the drug Paclitaxel is derived from. Paclitaxel fights breast, ovarian and lung cancer. Hawthorns are planted along the path as well, bearing the haw fruit, which can be used to make jelly and possibly lower blood pressure. Where a warehouse once stood, now the yard of the Epiphany School sits.
"It wasn't done by the T, it wasn't done by the city, it was done by the neighborhood, because if they didn't push it wouldn't have happened," said state Rep. Marty Walsh at the event. "I really don't know if I can explain to people how long 10 years is. I think it translates into thousands of hours of community service."