(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)
The smell of fresh cut grass and barbeque welcomed neighbors Saturday as they celebrated the official opening of the Dr. Loesch Family Park in Dorchester.
Formerly the Cronin/Wainwright Park, the green space saw a complete facelift over the past year, turning what was once a dilapidated field with what one resident called “jail-like fences” into a welcoming neighborhood center with activities for all ages, kids and adults.
“It wasn’t inviting before, it was dreary,” said Jenae Sequeira, a long-time resident. “Now with the updates it’s a lot more inviting and it’s great for the kids. They now can get out and play and I can watch them and they can interact with the other neighborhood kids.”
The updates, which included new basketball courts, renovations to the field, additional play equipment, bike racks, lighting, and a water spray feature seemed to be welcomed by residents and their children, as they ran through the fountains and played on the swings giggling and shooting each other with water-guns.
“The new park is gorgeous,” said Katie Ailinger, a local resident who was there with her husband Ben Rosenberg and their son Efran. “The park was one of the reasons we moved. We are excited to have the green space for our son.”
Overall more than $1 million was invested in the 2.24-acre park by the city through Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s Capital Improvement Program and the state’s Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant.
“It’s simply people coming together to make changes in the neighborhood,” Menino said to the crowd before he cut the ribbon. “It’s your park and we want this place to be an oasis in the city of Boston.”
Although all eyes were on the burgers grilling, many still remembered another person who played an important role in the park and its development, Rev. Dr. Bill Loesch.
Loesch has lived across from the park for close to 30 years and has been instrumental in the neighborhood, advocating for its residents, local parks, and working with the local neighborhood groups. Loesch even marched alongside Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement.
The park was formally renamed in Loesch’s honor, unbeknownst to him, by the Boston Parks Department in January after community members, family, and elected officials lobbied the department to rename the park for a man who has dedicated his life to his neighborhood and the park.
“I moved here to bring my young family so we could live next to the park,” said Loesch to the crowd. “I saw how much it takes for us all to work together and I’ve been so impressed with the partnership.”