Climate Ready Dorchester sets up shop with Neponset meeting

Participants in last week’s Climate Ready Dorchester open house at the Leahy-Holloran Community Center were asked to identify their favorite waterfront locations using flags on a table-top map. Katie Trojano photo

The city’s initiative on preparing for the long-term impacts of climate change was introduced to Dorchester last Wednesday night at an open house at the Leahy-Holloran Community Center. About 70 people turned out to a crowded library room to listen to a presentation about Climate Ready Dorchester and then participate in workshops on specific issues.

“This project that we’re talking about tonight is only looking at sea-level rise and coastal flooding,” said Carl Spector, commissioner of the city’s Environment Department. “This is the fourth in a series of neighborhood-based plans that we’re doing. We’re looking very specifically and concretely at how we’ll protect the city and how we adapt to sea level rise.” 

Climate Ready Dorchester will advance a number of resiliency initiatives through community engagement, land-use planning for future flood protection systems, flood protection feasibility studies, infrastructure adaptation planning, coordination with other plans like Boston 2030, and the development of financing strategies and governance structures.

“The Dorchester project is going to take us into the next year,” Spector said.   “We will be coming back to the community again in a few months from now when we have more concrete plans and after we absorb what you have to say and talk with other partners, including the state team.”

Despo Thoma, a senior designer with the New York-based landscape developer SCAPE and the project manager for Climate Ready Dorchester, presented a slideshow that highlighted specific issues relating to coastal flood risk in Dorchester. 

“We are asking for your feedback on many different questions that we’re posing through either activities or postcards,” Thoma said. “Our project area is along the coastline of Dorchester. Here we see either fringe flooding, where water from the harbor rises up and affects the shoreline, or we see that the water finds low points along the shoreline, finds its way through the back of neighborhoods, and affects low-lying areas.” 

During the session, The Dorchester team set up four interactive activity stations designed to engage and collect feedback from the community on matters like high coastal flooding and how best to create a resilient bulwark against them. Attendees were invited to place labels in the form of small different-colored flags onto the interactive map of Dorchester and its coastline-- indicating whether they found areas to be inaccessible, welcoming, safe, fun, or boring. 

Pippa Brashear, a planning principal at SCAPE, who helped coordinate the activity stations, later told the Reporter that “the focus of our plan is to address coastal flooding. But anytime that we’re planning there’s an opportunity to think about what else can be improved— whether that’s accessibility, transportation and other aspects that improve general quality of life for people.” 

SCAPE, Tetra Tech, the city’s Environment Department, and the BPDA will bring more comprehensive plans for Climate Ready Dorchester back to the community in another open house before the end of the year.