By Seth Daniel
Something is going to happen around Ramsey Park someday.
Residents of the area, which include the large Lenox Housing Development, can see the advancement of Northeastern University, the hot real estate market approaching from the north and the reinvigoration of Dudley Square to the south – not to mention the building going on at Boston Medical Center.
Through it all, residents are resigned to advocate for their park, and youth from St. Stephens Youth Programs all this month have been doing just that – holding a Peace Walk, painting a new mural, holding a neighborhood BBQ and calling on the City to devote more resources to the hard-luck – though large – park on the edge of the South End.
“We’re glad that some people are paying attention,” said Sarah O’Connor of St. Stephens. “This 10-block area has no school, no health center, no civic association and no one really claims it. The park is sort of in limbo. It’s zoned for the South End and gets Roxbury building permits. It’s in the middle of a lot of things. Something is going to happen here. We’re right in the middle of development between Dudley Square and Northeastern and BMC. We want to make sure the residents who are here can stay here and be proud of their park…These kids shouldn’t have to go further up into the South End to find a park that’s safe and clean.”
Many promises were made about having a tremendous amount of activities in Ramsey Park this summer, and some of that has come to be, but the flooding of the area with activities and police presence hasn’t always materialized.
Still, people sleeping in the Park can be found most every morning as the young kids from Lenox come out to the playground for their summer programs. There are constantly liquor bottles and nips littering the ground and some have mentioned that they have seen needles. Most all of the equipment and grass is in tough shape as well.
What has materialized though is some money for the park.
The City Budget does contain $2.02 million for Ramsey Park over the next five years, with $500,000 dedicated this budget cycle. The Mayor’s Office said design and community meetings could start this summer.
“As far as the money in the budget, the Parks Department is in the middle of an RFP process to select a designer and should have designer selected by mid-August and then will start the community meeting process – at least three meetings – in the fall of 2016,” said Bonnie McGilpin of the Mayor’s Office. “Once the design is finalized there will be a bid process for construction and construction is expected to begin in July 2017.”
On a recent morning in Ramsey Park, several youth leaders from St. Stephens said they were excited to put some new life into their park.
The youth were painting a mural on the side of a brick building next to the playground.
“We wanted to paint this mural because we want a transformation and a good playground for kids and a positive environment,” said Anthony Pereira, a youth organizer from St. Stephens. “We’re doing this for the smaller kids, but in reality it’s for everyone so we being awareness to the entire community about the conditions here.”
Ebony Chandler, another youth organizer at St. Stephens whose family has attended St. Augustine’s for four generations, said brightening up the wall is just one piece of the solution to making the park nice right now.
“If we can brighten things here with our mural, that can lead to a more positive atmosphere in the park and that’s something everybody can enjoy,” she said.
Muralist Alex Cook said he began painting the mural seven years ago on the wall next door. His return to the area to paint the second half has been much welcomed, he said.
“It’s kind of like having a house without any pictures on the wall,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like home and it isn’t comfortable. Once you have pictures on the wall, it feels like a home. That’s the same way with a mural in a neighborhood. It feels like a home in the neighborhood.”
Events this month have also included a Peace Walk, and tonight, July 28, there will be a huge Community Celebration in Ramsey Park with a BBQ at 6:30 p.m. and performances at 8 p.m.
Other Ramsey Activities have included a Boston Police Sunday Flag Football League, Saturday basketball and Thursday basketball.
On Thursday, Aug. 25, there will be a Movie Night in Ramsey Park featuring ‘Zootopia.’
Finally, an artist in residence program by Boston Parks will operate on July 28, Aug. 4, and Aug. 11 for kids (9 a.m. to noon).