(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)
The Mattahunt Community Center, nestled near the Mattapan-Hyde Park line, is considered a vital resource for many of the community’s youths.
It provides students from the surrounding neighborhood with a pool, afterschool programing, and mentoring. The center, which is based on Hebron Street, has been celebrated after it reopened last October following a renovation.
But accessing it has been a concern.
On July 10, state Senator Jack Hart, who represents portions of Mattapan, submitted a letter to the state’s Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey, requesting that, “the Department of Transportation and the MBTA visit the neighborhood and review what options could be implemented to provide public transit to the center, especially in the evening hours.”
The letter also raised concerns about Livermore Street, the main route used to access the center from Cummins Highway, where the Route 30 bus from Forest Hills to Mattapan Square stops.
“The side streets of Livermore and Hebron Streets and Stonecrest Road bring individuals into the Mattahunt Community Center parking lot,” reads the letter. “These streets are dimly lit and have very limited sidewalk access. This provides unsafe pedestrian access to the center.”
On Livermore, sidewalks are almost nonexistent, with just a slim shoulder providing pedestrians with just enough space to stay out of the road. Livermore has street lights, but the overgrowth of trees and shrubs have covered a good majority of them.
Stonecrest Road on the other hand has sidewalks, well maintained green space, and proper lighting. But it is mainly used by vehicles, with no public transportation within close proximity.
The center can also be reached via Messinger Street, but Messinger does not afford close proximity to public transportation.
The conversation about the center and access was originally sparked by members of the Cummins Valley Neighborhood Association and center staff. They said the newly reopened community resource isn’t being used as much as it could, and youths who currently use the center find navigating the dark streets difficult and at times dangerous.
“Concerns were raised by residents and folks that use the center about transportation and safety,” said Corey Allen, who sits on the center’s Advisory Board. “Some of the youths who use the center don’t have someone to pick them up and they need to get home safely.”
According to center staff, the Mattahunt currently serves about 240 young people per week through its summer programs, its partnership with Wheelock College, and a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs.
“I think for a lot of the families walking down Livermore Street doesn’t seem safe,” said Rashad Cope, director of the center. “We also want to increase traffic at the center, and it’s hidden right now. We want it to be more accessible and open to more families and better transit and accessibilitys could help.”
Some ideas have been floated about ways to address the problem.
“There seems to be a problem with people accessing the center particularly at night,” said Hart, who was reached by phone. “Maybe if it’s feasible, the T could provide direct access, but we have to look at the full picture.”
A similar direct access system was used at the Pacific Rim Elementary School in Hyde Park to help students get to school during peak hours, said City Councilor Rob Consalvo.
“[Pacific Rim] is a similar situation, and there’s precedent and maybe we can look at that model,” Consalvo said. “The lighting is also a problem and has to do with the trees so we will take a look at that.”
Although some have suggested expanding bus service, fitting a bus down the street might not be possible. The MBTA is currently reviewing Hart's letter and is preparing a formal response, according to a spokesperson for the transit agency.
Until lighting is improved, trees are cut, sidewalks installed, and service rerouted students will have to continue to walk home on the streets and as the days begin to get shorter and the early evening darker students will have to consider finding other safer ways to get to the center.
(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)