Landmarks Delays Improvements to Library Park

January 6, 2018
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By Beth Treffeisen

The South End Landmark’s District Commission (SELDC) continued an application that would re-design the Library Park adjacent to the South End Library at 685 Tremont St., stating the layout needs to be changed in order to better accommodate the roots of the existing trees in the park to give them a chance to survive through construction.

This puts a temporary hindrance on the accelerated plan to start construction in March 2018 with the reopening the park by late summer or fall of this year. The project team will have to come back in February with new design plans.

Although the current plan has no trees being removed, Chair John Amodeo at the hearing January 2, said he worries that the concrete and moving of the patio area will greatly disturb the roots of the trees.

He asked that a new design take that into account, and leave the trees enough space to survive the construction. The Commission was ok with the removal of some of the shrubbery.

“The trees have roots beneath the blue stone pavers,” said Amodeo. “I would say the trees are important to the people of the South End. Currently there are two paths around the trees in a bed, but the new path goes right through the roots. In order to excavate that path it would take up a significant amount roots, and I am concerned about that.”

Amodeo noted that the taproots are for the trees structure, but if enough of the root system near the surface is taken out, that could eventually lead to the trees death.

“I suspect the construction will be very disruptive, and you will loose your trees – that would be a shame,” said Amodeo.

The Boston Public Library owns the park but the Boston Parks and Recreation Department will be in charge of redesigning and implementing the changes to the park. Library Park received $150,000 in city capital funding to begin reprogramming and repairs of the green space for this year.

The Friends of the South End Library will continue their work after the construction to maintain and help clean the park. The Boston Parks Department will be charged with emptying the trash bins.

A public hearing was held on Nov. 29 at the South End Library by the Boston Parks Department to find out what changes the community would like to see and presented preliminary design ideas.

The budget was based on an estimate that the blue stone pavers in the park needed repair. Currently they are a tripping hazard and settling into the ground. But, after learning additional problems in the park, they soon set out to redesign and repurpose the entire park within that budget.

Major problems include difficulties accessing both electricity and water for the plants, depleted soil and little to no seating for events or activities in the park.

“It seems that historically the park has been deemed by an uneven surface, and I hope whatever surface paving you chose is not as hazardous,” said Commissioner Peter Sanborn.

The design, as presented to the SELDC showed a circular pathway, with islands in the middle filled with vegetation. Concrete with two different color texture patterns would replace the hazardous blue stone pavers.

The Commissioners said they understand the want to use concrete for saving money but urged the design to have some sort of accent of blue stone or other historic material from the South End incorporated. Typically, they said they wouldn’t approve concrete as the sole use of a pavement.

In addition, the design moved the patio area closer to the library building, where electrical outlets are located. Electricity will be useful for summer concerts and other programming. Currently electrical lines from the library are taped down and placed throughout the park, creating another tripping hazard.

The Commissioners also showed some concern regarding a backless bench that would stop the line view of someone entering the park from Tremont Street.

Although there is a gate there now, it is open most of the time and the Commissioners worried that by blocking the line of sight down the park, it would lead to less foot traffic going through it and asked that there might be an alternative location.

“There might be a negative presumption because of the way it closes off the entrance,” said Amodeo.

Marleen Nienhuis, the president of Friends of the South End Library, made a note that they have worked to raise tens of thousands of dollars throughout the time of their existence to help maintain the park and they will continue with their commitment.

“I want to say how wonderful the Boston Parks Department has been,” said Nienhuis. “They understand that the usage of the park is great.”

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