Residents in Mattapan are continuing to push for more green space in the community as organizers with the Fairmount Greenway Project work to develop a trail that would run along the Fairmount/Indigo Rail Line.
The corridor-wide greenway planning initiative was sparked after the city began the process to generate a development plan for the land and communities that the 9.2-mile rail corridor cuts through, which include Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park.
Those behind the greenway plan hope to eventually create a network of trails, parks, and open spaces roughly located along the rail line that will guide pedestrians and bikes through and to the neighborhoods.
Resembling the concept of the Southwest Corridor, which cuts through Jamaica Plain and Roxbury, the Fairmount Greenway is expected to use both a combination of new trails and existing public streets to lead travelers to destination spots.
At a Wednesday evening meeting in Mattapan residents and advocates toured potential locations the trail could run through and discussed areas critical to residents.
“Right now we are in the planning stages and we don’t know about funding and ownership, but those are things we are working out,” Reann Gibson, a program coordinator for the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition, a partnering agency on the greenway, explained to a group of about 30.
Organizers in Mattapan are currently in the process of identifying parcels and tracks of land that could become new parks, community gardens, and walk ways.
“There are a number of parcels around Mattapan that have potential and that’s where we need to think about ownership,” said Gibson.
The group has identified a handful of city and state owned properties including a lot on Woolson Street and a tract of land on Edgewater Drive.
The 44 Woolson St. lot is vacant and currently owned by the city. Organizers said they have been holding discussions with city officials, but need to find an organization that could takeover ownership and liability for the property.
“We need to have some entity that can hold it for the community,” explained Vivian Morris, the director of the Food and Fitness Coalition. “We feel the best vehicle for that is a land trust and now we are trying to find out if there is such an entity that can do that.”
Jay Lee, the assistant director of design construction and open space for the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development, which oversees the Woolson Street lot, said Wednesday the city is open to suggestions.
“Of course we support open space development, but we will have to conduct a community process and find an entity to take ownership,” Lee said.
On Edgewater Drive, which residents toured Wednesday evening, advocates highlighted the potential of the street to act as a trail for residents and open up the neighborhood’s connection to the Neponset River, which flows along its border.
“It’s a lovely river, but nobody gets to see it,” Morris explained as the group toured the street.
The Kennedy Playground, located on the street, was also highlighted as a potential spot for further investment.
Of the residents who attended Wednesday’s meeting, many were supportive of the plan and potential development in Mattapan.
“This [greenway] is a definitely a priority for Mattapan,” said Nicole Echemendia, an area resident. “With all the negative press the neighborhood gets, the green space is a positive and something that should be showed off.”
Others highlighted the importance of open space to the neighborhood’s many seniors and suggested ways to increase participation.
“One of the things that might be nice for the seniors who can’t bike or walk would be if there was some sort of tour vehicle,” said Olga Jones, a nearby resident.
Some were just excited to bring more green to the neighborhood.
“I think having different ideas and strategies to improve Mattapan and be environmentally friendly sounds good to me,” said Robyn Gibson, a Mattapan native who now resides in neighboring Hyde Park. “For me I would definitely emphasize more community gardens, but everything sounds great.”
Wednesday’s meeting was certainly not the group’s first foray into the community to talk about what residents want, nor will it be their last.
“We are in the early stages so we really need to find out what the community wants,” said Morris. “We really need people to tell us what they think should go there.”
(Image courtesy Mattapan Food & Fitness Coalition, Boston Natural Areas Network, and the Fairmount Greenway Open Space Taskforce)