City budget plan big boost for Dot parks, libraries

Mayor Walsh’s proposed FY ’17 budget includes a five-year capital plan that outlines some much-needed infrastructure improvements in Dorchester and Mattapan. The plan lays out intentions, not hard and fast promises to deliver funding. But it nonetheless provides an important look at the likely spending priorities of this administration and it is mainly good news for our communities.

The most significant new projects listed include the design and construction of two new libraries, in Adams Corner and Fields Corner, that, taken together, would cost more than $24 million. This is an impressive signal that the Walsh administration is serious about investing in modernizing the BPL branches in Dorchester.

There was a time not so long ago that the city came very close to shuttering branch libraries, including the one in Dorchester’s Lower Mills section. The Menino administration, faced with a budget shortfall, sought to eliminate four branches across the city. There was furious pushback from lawmakers and citizens and the late mayor edged back from the plan, despite exhortations from the Boston Globe’s editorial board that it was time to begin moving away from bricks and mortar library branches.

It is refreshing, then, to see that Dorchester may get an infusion of city spending that would make a real impact on Adams Street and Dorchester Avenue. Library branches are more than just repositories for books or a place to get online. They are critically important venues for students who need study space and tutoring programs; they provide a gathering space for residents of all ages to meet, learn, and share information.

The city’s parks are another asset that would get significant investment in the five-year Walsh plan. Neponset’s Garvey Park would see a $5 million renovation, resulting in a new play lot, courts, fields and, importantly, lighting. The Garvey, a very busy and successful park that is the site of programs throughout the year, definitely needs an upgrade akin to what the city did in recent years at Mattapan’s Almont Park.

The field is home to a terrific flag football program that has sought private help to assist with temporary lighting during their season. But having permanent lights at the park would be a welcome change that would also help to keep the park secure after hours. The plan also calls for adding lights to Doherty-Gibson Park in Fields Corner as well and projects another $3.7 million to make improvements at Harambee Park next to Franklin Field. It also budgets funds to complete projects that are already in design or under way in Savin Hill, King Street, Hemenway, Downer Avenue, and Ronan Park.

Keeping our parks and libraries in top condition is a challenge that requires a sustained commitment for funding each and every year. The Walsh administration is sending a welcome signal in this budget that it is committed to ensuring that our open spaces and public squares will always be in the best condition.
– Bill Forry

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