The Fenway Civic Association held its 57th Annual Meeting on Feb. 6 at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The meeting was very well attended by members of the Fenway community and elected officials, including State Sen. Will Brownsberger, Rep. Jay Livingstone, Rep. Chynah Tyler, and City Councilors Kim Janey and Josh Zakim.
After a lively, crowded reception courtesy of Samuels and Associates and food, beer, and wine provided by Huntington Wine and Spirits, the crowd migrated to a different room for the meeting portion.
Fenway Civic Association President Tim Horn provided a “snapshot” of 2018 and the work that Fenway Civic has done over the past year, which included holding three parks/open space service events, six free concerts, Porch Fest, 17 licensing reviews, and 21 weeks of free park fitness, just to name a few. Fenway Civic also advocated for the new Airbnb ordinance, as well as grant-funded improvements and funding advocacy.
“We’re here to make life better for everybody,” Horn said. He said that in 2019, they will “continue the same things we’ve done,” and address the issues with the housing supply in the neighborhood. “It’s not students in the housing that’s the problem,” Horn said. “We have to work with landlords to address this issue.”
In March, he also hopes to announce some more historic park restoration events.
Before getting to the keynote speaker Karen Mauney-Brodek of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, Margaret Dyson, Director of Historic Parks for Boston Parks and Recreation spoke about a number of projects that are happening in the area, including the Westland Avenue Gateway Project, which includes the preservation of the Johnson Gates. Dyson said that some capital money was able to be used for the project, which will be going into construction in the spring.
The Kelleher Rose Garden project is “well underway,” Dyson announced. She said that the hedge and the fence have been replaced, and the rabbit intrusions have been “diminished,” she said. The rabbits were causing several thousand dollars worth of damage on a regular basis, according to Dyson. There is still turf restoration to be done and “lots of other good things coming,” she said.
Karen Mauney-Brodek, president of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, gave the keynote presentation about updates on the Muddy River Project in the Back Bay Fens. Mauney-Brodek gave some background information about the Emerald Necklace, including that it is the nation’s oldest linear park system. She also talked about some of the work that the Emerald Necklace Conservancy has done in the past year with their volunteer and youth programs, and highlighted the 20th anniversary of the Conservancy by talking about Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya’s FogxFLO fog installation from last summer/fall. She said that the fog nozzles were put into storage after the exhibition ended on Oct. 31.
Mauney-Brodek said that the Muddy River Flood Damage Reduction project is important because the Muddy River helps with flood-water control. She said that Phase One is complete, and included restoration of the Riverway downstream to Avenue Louis Pasteur. The parking lot that was there was peeled off to reopen the river.
Mauney-Brodek said that the river is not able to manage the same amount of flood-water that it originally was due to sedimentation and phragmites, an invasive tall reed that has made its way into the river and restricted the amount of water that is visible.
Phase Two of the project includes the dredging of Leveret Pond. “Without seeing the river, you might not realize the importance of taking care of the river,” Mauney-Brodek said. She said that the removal of the phragmites will help with this.
In the Back Bay Fens, the phragmites will be removed on the side that goes along the Victory Gardens, and the process is currently going through permitting phases and other approvals, Mauney-Brodek said. Once it is approved, it will go through the bid process and people will be able to see physical work starting in the beginning of 2020, she continued.
The phragmites will be removed mechanically beneath the ground level, right down to their roots so they won’t be able to spread in the future. Margaret Dyson said that the City has developed a program that they are trying to get permitted through the state, as this type of removal is not currently permitted by state law.
“Sen. Brownsberger’s staff was helpful to us,” Dyson said. “We are hopeful that we will actually get the state permits.”
“We’re all very committed to the idea of passing legislation,” Sen. Brownsberger said. “We need to change that framework. We’re going to get this done one way or another,” he added, to a round of applause from the audience.
Mauney-Brodek said that the two phases will not be enough. “We’re going to need to have a phase three,” she said. She said that at this point, there are no federal funds for a third phase, but they will come up with “creative ways” to raise some funds.
There was a question about the phragmites returning, as they have been removed in some areas before but have come back. “Maintenance is forever,” Dyson said. “If we back off of the management, you will see the phragmites return.” She said they will need to plant other species in the park in place of the invasive species and maintain the park.
Horn suggested that institutions along the necklace “adopt” their section of the park that they face in order to help with maintenance. “It’s the maintenance items that we don’t really get the budget for,” he said, so having institutions pitch in will make it less of a burden.
Elected officials showed their support for the work that Fenway Civic and the rest of the community has done over the past year. “Fenway is well represented by the Civic Association,” Sen. Brownsberger said.
“I’m happy and honored to work with you to amplify your effort,” said Rep. Jay Livingstone. “It’s great to see some of the progress we were able to make.”
Rep. Chynah Tyler said that it is important that people use their voices to let elected officials know what their concerns are. “Your comments, concerns are very important to us,” she said, and pointed out that she and others have “created spaces for you to let us know how you feel.” She said to look out for a series of town halls and other events where people can come and voice their comments and concerns so something can be done about them.
Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services liaison Yissel Guerrero summed it up: “I don’t know what’s going on in the neighborhood unless you tell me.”