Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com
North End residents want more shade, fewer rodents, more engaging winter programming, and more vibrant, colorful plantings in the parks of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, they told the conservancy that manages the parks Wednesday night.
Around 50 residents of the North End and adjacent neighborhoods came to the community forum at the Fairmont Battery Wharf armed with questions and suggestions for the conservancy, which some locals have accused of being unresponsive to neighborhood recommendations.
Jesse Brackenbury, chief operating officer and acting executive director of the conservancy since the recent departure of Nancy Brennan, opened the workshop by saying the organization wants to hear neighborhood perspectives. But he cautioned that some larger issues would have to be addressed incrementally, as the parks “will continue to evolve season to season.”
Residents told Linda Jonash, the conservancy’s director of planning and design, that the parks need more shade. Because existing pergolas on the paved eastern edge of the two North End parks are not designed to create shade and don’t lend themselves to easy modification for that purpose, they suggested adding umbrellas to existing table and chair sets.
Anthony Ruggiero, the conservancy’s horticulture foreman, said the conservancy would replace small magnolia trees on the grassy portions of the North End parks with larger, shadier maple and elm trees, though the trees would remain at the edges of the plots to leave plenty of open space for sunbathers.
Residents suggested adding plants to the pergola bases, Jonash said, “to have that edge be more of a buffer” between park-goers and busy Cross Street. They also recommended organizing events that would draw visitors across that street to businesses facing the northern park block, several of which are struggling to attract customers.
Some recommended creating a dog park on the little-used ramp parcel between the North End Parks and the Armenian Heritage Park. Such a park would address the needs of neighborhood dog owners while also encouraging visitors to continue exploring the chain of green spaces past that parcel, which they considered uninviting in its present state.
Steven Anderson, director of park operations, said the first issue residents raised with him was rodent control. He said the conservancy uses a private pest control service and reports monthly to the city’s Inspectional Services Department. He said the conservancy’s current policy of removing garbage three or four times daily during the busy season was intended partly to deter rodents.
Anderson said there is a leak in the water storage tank for the fountain on the northern park. It was discovered at the end of construction on the park and temporarily patched but that is now leaking again, he said, causing an erosion problem. He said the problem is small enough, and expensive enough to fix, that the conservancy plans to just live with it for the time being.
Fixing it could cost $35,000 to $70,000, depending on how large the leak turns out to be once the storage tank is excavated, Anderson said.
Charlie McCabe, director of public programs for the conservancy, said residents told him they wanted better programming to keep the parks lively in winter, perhaps including a winter market similar to the one at Downtown Crossing.
McCabe said residents like exercise classes in the parks and would like the conservancy to partner with institutions such as the Children’s Museum and the Museum of Science to bring programming to the parks, and would like more local artists invited to participate in its arts programs.
Nate Swain, president of the Friends of the North End Parks, discussed with Brackenbury and Ruggiero the organization’s desire that landscaping in the park be more robust and colorful. Brackenbury agreed that plantings could be improved upon and said he was open to a public process in which the neighborhood would have a voice in a redesign.
The friends group plans to propose horticultural changes at the conservancy’s public board of directors meeting on Tuesday, April 9, at 5:30 p.m. at the Atlantic Wharf building, 290 Congress St.