Community Service Project: Dartmouth Green, Boston
“What a transformation!” was a typical comment from the South End residents who passed by our work site: 29 Dartmouth Street. Formerly the site of a collapsed brownstone townhouse, the lot came under the protection of South End Lower Roxbury Open Space Land Trust (SELROSLT) in 1991. In the following years, the area, which is adjacent to a public school in the midst of a residential neighborhood, remained largely underutilized and overgrown. In July 2012, SELROSLT merged with Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN), and 16 SELROSLT gardens and pocket parks, some of the oldest community gardens in the city, came under the auspices of BNAN. BNAN hired a Garden Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, Dana Chepulis and worked with the South End community to create a masterplan for the “Dartmouth Green”, formerly known as Dartmouth Park. The pieces started coming into place to reclaim the derelict plot.
Earlier this year, the Ecological Landscape Alliance (ELA)
and the Landscape Institute of the
Boston Architectural College were looking for an opportunity to perform a community service project that would create a hands-on educational opportunity, result in positive neighborhood change, and bring together their constituencies. An auspicious conversation between ELA Executive Director, Penny Lewis, and BNAN’s Director of Property and Horticulture, Jeremy Dick, connected the organizations’ efforts. And judging from the pumped fists of passersby and the friendly conversations among volunteers during the July work days, Dartmouth Green served its purpose.
The sloping site, less than a quarter of an acre, now features a native shade garden with benches and sitting areas connecting to a sunny area with four raised beds for community gardens. And four resident gardeners will grow greens and root crops this fall in Dartmouth Green’s new beds. Frank Hamm, a South End resident and builder, provided a rustic centerpiece – a beautiful red cedar bench made of branches and limbs. Also on the lot, BNAN plans to launch a perennial garden training program using Dartmouth Green as a classroom. Sessions this fall will include instruction on bulb planting, autumn perennial maintenance, soil improvements, and winter preparation. BNAN looks forward to cultivating both neighborhood stewards and knowledge about city gardening with native plants.
Boston Natural Areas Network and ELA secured a number of donations to prepare for the two-day volunteer installation intensive. Site Prep was done by Peter Wild, owner of Boston Tree Preservation, who donated the time of two crew members and the use of his Bobcat for stump removal, grading, and material placement. This crew did a masterful job in a tight urban lot. Plant material was donated by Lynda Morrow, owner of The Gardens at Rosewood Fields, a wholesale field-grown perennial plant nursery located in Litchfield, NH. Woody plants and some perennials were also provided by BNAN’s City Natives in Mattapan. Bruce Fulford of City Soil & Greenhouse Company provided the leaf mold mulch and organized the haul away and disposal of organics and stone. BNAN obtained a Beautify Boston Grant that covered the services to grind a stump at the rear of property and to complete fence installation and repairs later this August. South End neighbors of Dartmouth Green have also donated funds to the project.
The two-day service project included placing reclaimed stone lintels and cobble edging, installing a stone path, constructing raised vegetable beds, and planting and mulching the woodland garden. Haley House, A Cafe, Soup Kitchen, and Live-in Community, provided bathrooms, snacks, and volunteers. Hands-on volunteers included ELA President Trevor Smith, owner of Land Escapes; ELA Executive Director, Penny Lewis; ELA former President Kathy Sargent-O’Neill; ELA Board Members Maureen Sundberg and Scott Kleekamp; ELA Member Colleen; Elizabeth Byron; Director of the Landscape Institute at the BAC, Heather Heimarck; Director of the Sustainable Design Institute at the BAC, Lance Fletcher; LI graduates Ruth Riske, Lyn Carroll, and Elaine Smith; BAC graduate and undergraduate students Andrew DelCid, Ruth Guay, Sandra Larrauri, Grace Lee, Mandy Li, Susan Nellis, Yan Carlo Oquendo, Gerardo Ruiz-King, and Jay Underwood.
BNAN’s new leadership role in Boston’s South End and Lower Roxbury community gardens will be celebrated during a grand reopening at which the community, neighbors, and friends will be invited to walk through all the SELROSLT gardens including Dartmouth Green. ELA, the LI, and the BAC at large are proud to support BNAN and their closely aligned interests in urban gardening, education, and the stewardship of public spaces.