By Cara Gillis
Special to the Reporter
Letter to the Editor:
Residents who live in the neighborhood surrounding Richardson Park would like the care and maintenance of the park now provided by state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to be taken over by the city of Boston.
The park, located between East Cottage Street and Columbia Road, is best known as the home of the historic Blake House, Boston’s oldest residence.
For the past five years, residents have found that dealing with the DCR on a variety of issues has not been productive. We believe the city of Boston would be a more responsive partner when it comes to these issues, the first of which is the scarcity of trash cans.
Currently, the park has one poorly located, often overflowing trash can for the entire area. As a result, it is frequently blanketed in litter.
The 7-Eleven and the KFC located in a nearby square serve as sources for much of the trash. Kids use the path on the hill as a shortcut to school and it is frequently littered with trash and dog waste. There are plenty of neighbors who try to help out by picking up trash when they can, but the lack of barrels makes this inconvenient to do on a regular basis.
Nearby Meaney Playground, at the intersection of East Cottage, Pleasant, and Pond streets, has a fenced-in play area with a climbing structure, swings, and benches, but no trash can. Years ago, there were two well-used trash cans in the park. If there was litter, concerned neighbors picked it up and put it in the cans.
Both cans disappeared and were not returned, despite repeated requests from neighbors. DCR seemed attentive and would respond to our concerns with various, sometimes confusing excuses.
Finally, this year, we were told that the barrels were intentionally removed to “encourage park users to embrace a carry in-carry out trash policy.”
We were finally given a clear answer - that it was against their policy to provide our neighborhood park with trash barrels – so we enlisted the help of our city councillors. But because the parks are managed by the state rather than the city, we were unsuccessful in solving the problem.
DCR also charges us a fee to hold public events in our park. In 2018, a group of volunteers organized the first annual Pear Square Art Fair. The main goal of this event is to bring people together as a community to enjoy the park. We planned the event, which was free and open to the public and featured various local art vendors and musicians, and it was a fabulous success. We generated no income from the event and we left the park better than we found it.
Then we received the bill from DCR for $1,200 in “permitting fees.” In such a densely populated area, this park is essentially our shared backyard and we care for it as such. Being charged to actually enjoy it was a disappointing shock and we asked the DCR to erase our debt and waive the fee going forward. The agency refused.
Councillor Frank Baker was able to secure funds to cover the debt and got the fee for the 2019 event reduced, but we were told that the fee reduction was a one-time deal and would not be repeated in subsequent years.
So it looks like DCR policies may prevent us from using our local park in a meaningful way. The Pear Square Art Fair could become a Dorchester tradition that residents from all around can enjoy.
Neighborhood parks flourish and thrive because the surrounding residents use them and are invested in their care and upkeep. We feel that if these parks were owned and operated by the city of Boston, there would be more accountability to the residents nearby.
We have started a petition on Change.org to ask the city to assume responsibility for these parks. We sincerely hope that there will be widespread support for this request, as this issue may impact other parks and other organizations as well.
Cara Gillis is a member of the Dorchester North Neighborhood Association. The group may be reached at email@example.com.