A green dream for Gallivan is now a travesty

“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.”
TREES, a poem by Joyce Kilmer

Just what are those twisted sticks sprouting along the center island of Gallivan Boulevard, roughly between the Granite Ave. McDonald’s and the Neponset turnaround? They appear every 30 feet or so, clusters of mostly dead wood surrounded by weeds and crabgrass.

If memory serves, the administration of Michael Dukakis decided to beautify the roadway by planting several dozen saplings along the center islands in the hope of beautifying the neighborhood with a grove of shade trees to rival the toniest of suburban parkways.

That all happened in the mid-1980s, back in the day when Gallivan and other parkway roads were managed by the MDC (the Metropolitan District Commission), a state agency then headed by a Dorchester native, Commissioner Bill Geary.
For generations, the MDC managed hundreds of public amenities in Boston and the nearby “metropolitan” region, according to a 2003 study, “Enhancing Regional Greenfrastructure,” published by Harvard’s Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston.

The MDC “for more than a century managed hundreds of parks, riverways, parkways, and reservations in thirty-seven cities and towns in the core of Greater Boston,” the study noted.

“The MDC system also provided an essential web of complex ecologies. The network of parks along the area’s three major rivers (the Charles, the Mystic, and the Neponset) help keep the waterways clean and mitigate the pollutions of the area’s watersheds. Trees and plant life in the metropolitan park system remove carbon dioxide and other contaminants from the air. The parks serve as an urban sanctuary for birds and other wildlife.”

But that was another time, another century, and after four successive Republican governors – Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci, Jane Swift, and Mitt Romney – sought to scuttle the agency, the MDC was ultimately dismantled, its mission passed along to the state’s Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) which now is responsible for the state parks and roadways once managed by the MDC.

Most of the Gallivan trees that were planted more than 30 years ago are now either dead or dying, relics of a long-ago attempt to maintain some beauty in our community’s public spaces. Alas, not long after the extensive tree-planting was installed, the topiary was choked by auto emissions and winter weather, and now the onetime saplings stand as forlorn, leafless branches. Why doesn’t someone tear them out and replant them?

I’m talking to you, Gov. Baker. cc: DCR Commissioner Jim Montgomery.