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In Mattapan residents eye vacant lots for green space

Posted by Patrick Rosso  May 2, 2013 12:41 PM

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As the city plans for development along the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line, a separate group has been working to add greenspace to neighborhoods that surround the line.

Mattapan wants its piece of the action.

On Wednesday a small group of committed residents gathered at the Mildred Avenue Community Center in Mattapan to discuss bringing more green spaces to the community as part of the Fairmount Greenway Project.

“Right now the vision is to do a multi-space urban greenway from South Bay to Hyde Park,” Michelle Moon, a project coordinator for the Fairmount Greenway Project, explained Wednesday.

The initiative, which has a number of community partners from the neighborhoods that touch the line including Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park, has been working to identify partners and areas for the development of a greenway.

Although the project is still in the planning phase, a number of parcels throughout the neighborhoods have been identified for possible green spaces and a route. The corridor is expected to generally follow the rail line, but will not be continuous like the Neponset River Greenway or the South West Corridor.

“We look at green spaces as both places for physical and mental health renewal,” said Vivian Morris, program director for the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition, a community partner on the project and host of Wednesday’s meeting.

Working with the city, the Food and Fitness Coalition has been scouring the neighborhood for vacant lots that could be turned into passive parks, playgrounds, urban wilds, or community gardens. The group has already identified a Woolson Street parcel for possible development, but would eventually like to identify two more to add to the greenway.

“Right now we are gathering input and trying to find out what residents in the area would like to see the space used for,” said Morris. “Some have said they want a garden, others want a play space, so we haven’t heard of just one use residents want.”

Although Wednesday’s meeting was mostly attended by advocates familiar with the struggle to bring more safe community gathering and green spaces to the neighborhood, two residents who were new to the group said they liked what was being said.

“It would be great,” said Brenda Bonman, an area resident. “[A playground/community garden] would get the kids off the streets and into the garden doing something.”

Flora Frazier another area resident was straight to the point.

“Anything other than another vacant lot would be better,” she said.

Excitement has been building around the potential for new neighborhood green spaces, but money, land, and resources stand in the way. The city, according to Morris, has said it is willing to turn over some lots, but money is still tight for any improvements and the group is still working to find out what exactly is needed in the community.

“This is an important first step,” said Morris, “Now we just need to see what kind of support we can get to take the project to the next level.”

Currently the group is in the visioning phase for first lot at 44 Woolson St., but are still in need of community input and support, especially from those that live on the street.

Another meeting has been set from May 29 at the Mattapan Family Service Center on River Street. The meeting will run from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. and anyone interested in providing input about potential lots and uses or advocating for more community green spaces is encouraged to attend.

More information can also be found on the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition's website.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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