Vacant Lot in Dorchester Reborn as Playground (MA)

Boston, MA: Mayor Thomas M. Menino presided this morning over the celebration of a sparkling new park and playground near Dorchester’s Codman Square. Designed by neighborhood residents and featuring swings and play equipment, a water play area, benches and an area for free play, the new Elmhurst Street playground replaces a former 10,000-square-foot vacant lot. Today’s celebration capped an eleven-year fundraising, design, and construction effort.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create new urban parks, spearheaded the project, along with the City of Boston, the Boston Project Ministries, Codman Square Health Center, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, Dorchester Environmental Health Coalition, and a neighborhood group called Friends of Elmhurst Street Park. Lead funding was provided by MetLife Foundation.

“Today’s event is the perfect example of a community coming together and creating a public/private partnership that will be a great benefit to this neighborhood,” said Mayor Menino.

David Queeley of The Trust for Public Land said, “Even a city such as Boston, with its signature parks and greenways, has areas that need more safe places for kids and adults to enjoy the outdoors, exercise and play. This neighborhood is one such place. The Trust for Public Land is proud of its partnership with the City and the many neighborhood groups and donors who made this project possible. It’s not easy to turn a vacant lot into a beautiful park like this one, but through the persistence of all, and generous donors like the MetLife Foundation, it can get done.”

“Individuals of all ages benefit from safe, accessible parks and playgrounds,” said Dennise White, president of MetLife Foundation. “We are pleased to join TPL, the City of Boston, community organizations and residents in creating this important new neighborhood resource.”

The Friends of Elmhurst Park also helped raise funds for the park, sponsored activities to raise awareness about the future playground, and engaged neighbors in designing the new park. Sherimon Harris, a 19-year-old who lives near the park, has been involved in its creation since she was 10 years old. A member of the Friends group, she said, “I’m excited that success is finally here. It’s been a great experience working with my friends and neighbors to accomplish something that will have a lasting benefit to the families who live nearby.”

Paul Malkemes of the Boston Project Ministries said, “The residents of this neighborhood are really looking forward to using this new park. Most of our houses don’t have back yards, so this park fills a tremendous need. Over the past ten years, I’ve been struck by the persistence of neighbors who mowed the lot, kept it cleaned up, and never gave up despite the many steps that were necessary. What’s exciting now is how new neighbors are drawn here – it’s truly the common gathering space in our midst.”

The total estimated cost to create the Elmhurst Street Park was nearly $260,000. In addition to the lead funding provided by MetLife Foundation, additional contributors were: Amelia Peabody Charitable Fund, Beedee Ladd, Cabot Family Charitable Trust, Citizens Bank, Harold Whitworth Pierce Charitable Trust, Home Depot CommUnity Impact Grant, James and Cathleen Stone Foundation, Liberty Mutual Foundation, Lovett-Woodsum Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. George Macomber, Youth Fun Raisers, Mt. Washington Bank, New England Grassroots Environmental Fund, Paul and Edith Babson Foundation, Roy A. Hunt Foundation, Suzanne Weinstein, and an anonymous foundation.

Whitney Hatch, Southern New England Director at The Trust for Public Land, said, “This park, with its community designed public art and other amenities, represents what can happen when community, funders and the City work together toward a common goal-giving children more places to play that stimulate their imaginations while providing new opportunities for exercise, increased health, and social interaction. Parks are the most democratic of spaces and it’s wonderful to be able to create a place where everyone is welcome.”

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit conservation organization conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL depends on the generous support of individuals and businesses to implement its land for people mission. Through its Parks for People Program, TPL has supported the development of 56 park, open space, and community development projects in New England cities since 1985.

MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 by MetLife to carry on its longstanding tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. The new space is one of 36 community parks and playgrounds nationwide supported by MetLife Foundation, which has contributed $3.1 million to TPL.