Hail BNAN, cheerleader for our open space

In my last column, I offered some figures to illustrate that almost twelve percent of Dorchester’s land area is protected open space; most if it banked by the State’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

Although we are only a section of Boston, I thought it would be interesting to look at figures of percentages of total protected land area for some suburban towns: Duxbury, 18 percent; Scituate, 19; Hull, 19; and Hingham, 29.

Keep in mind that much of the protected land in these towns is inland, bought up to protect drinking water supplies, and much of it is owned by non-profit land trusts. Most of their waterfronts are private.

As a DCR community, we are extremely fortunate that virtually all of our expansive shoreline is accessible to the public, as opposed to many South Shore towns, where recent history is replete with beach and waterfront access legal feuds. And in most towns, beach access is for residents only! Dot knows best.

Manifesting millions of dollars in funding for completion of parks and trails on land already banked for such purposes is the primary hurdle that we face. These funds do not just materialize; it takes advocates to organize and lobby for government funds and philanthropic grants.

For close to 25 years, The Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN) has advocated for the completion, enhancement, and programming of all the wonderful parks and trails along the Neponset River by using the open, resident-based Neponset River Greenway Council for community input, and then taking the case to DCR and our elected officials.

Some day the Neponset Trail will connect to Mattapan and Hyde Park where the Neponset River Esplanade is under construction. In addition to lobbying and providing public input on that, BNAN has been pushing for several projects to enhance the current terminus of the trail at Central Ave.

Working with elected officials, DCR, and the Boston Conservation Commission as part of the public access process, BNAN leveraged contributions from the Baker Chocolate complex developers to construct a trail and canoe launch along the northern shore at the back of the property at Central Ave. This fall, DCR will re-deck the defunct bridge that crosses the dam pond, thereby creating a trail-end loop
Anyone who has ever used the trail, Pope John Paul II Park, the spray pool, or the boat launch at Granite/Hilltop Streets, or who has attended the Summer Greenway Festival events, Pumpkin Float, Kite Festivals, Dog Sledding and other events, owes a debt of gratitude to BNAN. While DCR assists with staffing and logistics for these programs, they would not happen without the efforts of the non-profit BNAN. President Valerie Burns and her energetic staff, including Program Manager Candice Cook, Director of Operations and Clam Point resident Shea Ennen, and another Dotite, summer youth leader, Peter Duran work tirelessly throughout the city supporting community gardens, youth conservation corps, greenways, and programming. Thank you BNAN!

Paul Nutting lives in Savin Hill. He can be reached by e-mail at parksindot@gmail.com.