Fenway Gets Muddy River, 401 Park Updates

The Fenway Civic Association held a Summer Meeting at the Fenway Community Center on Aug. 13 to update the Fenway neighborhood on important parks happenings. The community heard from both Margaret Dyson, Director of Historic Parks for the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, about the Muddy River Project, as well as from Peter Sougarides of Samuels & Associates regarding the new green space outside of 401 Park Drive.

Muddy River Restoration

The Muddy River Project has been presented at several community meetings and previously reported on by the Sun, but Dyson came to this meeting to provide the most up-to-date information to the public, as this project is right in the backyard of many Fenwickians. Dyson said that the purpose of the Muddy River Project is to make improvements to protect against a flood, eradicate harmful Phragmites from the area, and preserve and restore the historic park shoreline and vegetation in construction areas.

Phase One of the project consisted of “daylighting” the river, which means opening the river and reconnecting a lost section of the Emerald Necklace. This section of the river is now where the parking lot in front of the old Sears building was. Opening it up also created significant benefits to wildlife habitats, Dyson said.

Phase Two is the Flood Damage Reduction part of the project, which Dyson said is currently out to bid and addresses both upstream and downstream of Phase One daylighting. Material underwater will be removed, creating a deeper river, which is better for habitats. The Phragmites are also being mechanically removed. So far, an early summer cutting was done, and a late summer cutting is underway. “We were taken aback by how quickly they grow,” Dyson said of the Phragmites. They originally thought they would only have to do three-four cuttings per year to control the growth, but now they feel they may have to do five or six instead. However, Dyson said that during this second cutting, there has been less density in the Phragmites, “which is great.”

Another piece of the puzzle is the Ecological Restoration Pilot Project, of which the Federal government is covering 6 percent of the cost, Dyson said. The project will improve the quality and function of resource areas, as well as protect the interests of the Wetlands Protection Act, she said.

“Because of this project, we now have the opportunity to restore areas that have been degraded,” Dyson said. The project is limited under certain conditions, however, and can only be undertaken in areas that have been degraded and destroyed by human activity, she said. The project will improve habitat value, eliminate invasive species and increase diversity of vegetation and wildlife, among other things, Dyson said.

There was a comment made that some of the Phase One planting is not looking up to par, and Dyson said that they did learn a lot with Phase One planning, and will have to go back and do some cleaning up and replanting. “We worked directly with a landscape architecture firm,” she said, which will allow for the much more rigorous upkeep that is required of these new plantings. She said the area on Brookline Avenue that looks towards the medical area where the berm for the water main is is one of the areas that will have to have some significant replanting. She said that due to the new trees that were planted there, there is not enough shade for the surrounding plants.—the right plants for 15 years from now are planted there, she said, as full grown trees will be able to provide the shade they need but that is not the case just yet.

The project is out to bid now, and Dyson said her expectation for the earliest they will be out on site will be spring or early summer of next year. Dyson also announced that she will not be continuing in her role as Director of Historic Parks, but she will be leaving a plant list with the Fenway Civic Association that lists what will be planted as part of the project.

401 Park Drive

Peter Sougarides said that the park space is “not 100 percent done, but we’re really pleased with the outcome of the park.” He said there is lots of open green space and flexibility in how it gets used, from outdoor exercise and gatherings in the warm weather to an ice skating rink in the winter.

Surrounding the large lawn in the middle of the park are stone benches, trees, and other landscaping. Cushions are available for people to borrow to sit on the benches or directly on the lawn, Sougarides said.

He also discussed the different types of programming that will be offered in the space. “Programming is meant to be all-inclusive, local, cultural, creative, collaborative,” he said.

Artist Nicole Eisenman was commissioned to create interactive sculptures for the park, called “Grouping of Works from Fountain,” that welcome the public to play and interact with them, Sougarides said.

Programming can include hands-on art activities and unique seasonal programming. Fitness and Wellness has been a popular type of programming this summer, from yoga to boot camp. Other possibilities include bocce and corn hole leagues, as well as wellness, health, and meditation workshops.

Youth and family programming includes things like movie screenings, Red Sox away game activations, and other kids activities, and Entertainment programming can include local/regional talent, food and drink events, and the Fenway Fridays Series.

In the winter, the ice rink will open up and be used for open skate, themed nights, and lessons.

“We want to test out different things and what people like,” Sougarides said. “The first year will be sort of a test year to see what works and what people want to see the space used for, and then more programming will be figured out for next year.

“Our goal is to keep it active and test out different things,” Sougarides said. “Feel free to email us with different ideas.”

For event information, visit thefenway.com/events or 401park.com/events, or check Instagram @thefenway and Facebook @thefenwayneighborhood.

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