By Beth Treffeisen
Ramsay Park, located in the South End, is known for its array of a field and courts including baseball, basketball and tennis. But for those who live nearby, they often see the park being used for something else; including drinking, drugs, and even gang related activity.
At the second community meeting for the Ramsay Park redesign that was held in the Mandela Homes Community Room at 1855 Washington Street on November 15, local residents voiced their ideas on how to make the park safer for everyone to use.
“It just doesn’t make sense to create this beautiful park and not address that,” said Police Officer Jorge Dias who does community outreach for the South End and Lower Roxbury.
As recent as Saturday, Nov. 12, there was a shooting that resulted in a bullet going through the window of Pizza Talia, which is located right next to the park on Shawmut Avenue, according to Officer Dias.
“There is still a lot of violence in that area,” said Dias.
But with the new Melnea Hotel and Residences that will be located on the nearby Melnea Cass Blvd., and other new developments coming soon to the area, new eyes will be cast onto the park that might deter the unwanted activity currently happening.
This year, Mayor Martin Walsh increased the operating funds for parks to $1.7 million, making possible the much-needed upgrades and park maintenance around the city.
Due to the advocacy of dedicated young people, Ramsay Park was picked as one of the new projects to be included in this year’s fiscal budget.
At the public meeting three concepts were presented. The group leaned towards the design that had one tennis court and an increased climbing area for kids. The Boston Parks & Recreation Department is still garnering feedback for what design to go with.
The first meeting was held at the Michael L. Bivins Court Naming Ceremony where a recap of the site analysis of existing conditions was discussed.
Construction for the project is expected to take nine months and will go no later than the spring of 2018.
“Hopefully this time next year we’ll have a gorgeous new park right over there,” said Nathan Frazee, the project manager from Boston Parks & Recreation, pointing towards the park.
At the meeting residents brought up the possibly of taking out two chess tables that are not used to play the game along with the benches to ware off the unwanted activity that transpires at that location.
The new benches that will be going into the park will have armrests to deter people from lingering and lying down.
Local students also brought up the issue of the back corner on the baseball field where they have often seen dangerous activity and asked if the designers if it was possible to activate that corner to deter illegal activity.
“I’ve been here for 22 years and have talked about the same thing about safety,” said Police Officer Dias. He pointed out that most of the people in the park tend to be older from 40 to 50-years-old.
Officer Dias said, “We do not have kids in the park but we would want to see more kids coming in.”
Another idea to stave off unwanted activity in the park was to fix the lighting. Frazee said that at the moment there are lights in the park but a lot of them are not working and or are blocked by trees. He said, as part of the design they will make sure that there aren’t any dark spots.
“At the same time we don’t want to light it up enough to make it feel open enough to make people feel like they are welcome in at all times,” said Kevin Beuttell the landscape architect from Stantec consulting and design firm.
Frazee said that if the budget allows or if they get additional funding LED lights can be placed in the sports area.
Madeligne Tena the housing and community advocate for the abutting Mandela Residents Cooperative Association located at 1855 Washington Street asked if it would make a difference to put up the police beacons, which can be found in college campuses across the city.
Officer Dias said those are more effective if there is a lot of robbery but unfortunately in this area, there isn’t a lot of robbery but a lot of gang violence. If someone where to pick up that phone, he said, they would immediately become a target.
“What we do have is a lot of gang violence and a lot of drug use as well as a lot of alcohol use in the park. I think that’s a whole different thing,” said officer Dias. “But, it doesn’t do us any good to create this beautiful park if we can’t sadly remove that element.”
The next and final public meeting will be held on December 6 in the same location at 6:30 p.m.