Native American burial ground site, water pipe issue slow Savin Hill Park rehab

Last Camp?: A Native American encampment atop Savin Hill was depicted in this photo taken by James Stark in 1884. Stark was the president of the Dorchester Historical Society. The photograph was published in a 1907 Dorchester Day  celebrations book prepared by the soLast Camp?: A Native American encampment atop Savin Hill was depicted in this photo taken by James Stark in 1884. Stark was the president of the Dorchester Historical Society. The photograph was published in a 1907 Dorchester Day celebrations book prepared by the soRenovations at Savin Hill Park have been delayed, city officials say, because a plumbing complication near the tennis courts has made a redesign necessary, officials said.

A second complication in the plan is the presence of a Native American burial ground underneath the tennis courts. The city archaeologist will need to be on hand for any digging near the site to ensure no possible remains are disturbed, said Ryan Woods, a spokesman for the Boston Parks and Recreation Department.

Last fall, residents were briefed on the $215,000 project, which focuses on improvements to the park’s paths and amenities. David Cotter, a Savin Hill native and Dorchester liaison for the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, said some of his neighbors had asked him for an update on the project.

Part of the plan called for replacing a 50-year-old water fountain near the park’s tennis courts, said Woods. “Unforeseen circumstances” involving the failure of old and excessively degraded pipes rendered the current plan unworkable, Woods said.

“The whole stoppage of work right now is because of the water issue,” Woods said, noting that planners will have to redesign the area around the fountain before continuing with the renovations and installing new pipes.

Although the burial ground is known to be near the tennis courts, its exact location remains uncertain as Native Americans did not publicize the location of the site, Woods said. Added Cotter in an email: “The city has known it’s there and has protocols for this kind of thing. They operate with an abundance of caution with burial grounds.”

The Boston Water and Sewer Department needs to review and approve the new plans and gain the okay of the archaeologist before construction can continue, Cotter said. He estimated about three weeks of work to rectify the water fountain portion of the site. Landscaping work, which was held off during last week’s heat wave, is expected to resume so that new plantings will survive, he wrote in a neighborhood web post.

The park will eventually have a new combination water fountain and water-bottle refilling station, but the planners are proceeding cautiously and with all due diligence to avoid further alterations down the road, Woods said.

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