Condor Street Urban Wild

Your Guide
Kaki Martin, ASLA
kaki_snall

Long neglected as a vacant lot, this 4.5 acre property was taken by the city for back taxes and became part of the Urban Wilds Program in the Boston Parks and Recreation Department. When tested as a potential site for wetland mitigation for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, high concentrations of lead and arsenic were found, precluding it from being used without major remediation. In the late 1990s, the Parks Department received grant money to pursue clean-up and to explore design options for recreation and future access to the Chelsea River.

Hargreaves Associates went through a lengthy public design process with East Boston’s Community Development Corporation (NOAH) acting as community liaison. The process yielded several design schemes and community consensus.

The design kept much of the low-level toxic soil on-site under a protective cap of largely recycled, on-site, concrete tailings, and exported only a small quantity of material off-site. As a result, the previously flat site became undulated with landforms providing prospect up and down the river and views across the site. As an urban wild, the park is a wildlife habitat composed mainly of volunteer plant species. The parks receives minimal maintenance and no irrigation.

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Comments
John Walkey October 14, 2017 8:48 AM
A good synopsis, but leaves out some details in the development of the site. Community activism was critical to activate this project with both advocacy and funding. The Chelsea Creek Action Group, a resident-lead effort facilitated by NOAH and other non-profit partners pushed the City towards moving on the project which had been maintained as a fenced-off brownfield for years. Funds from charitable foundations as well as from NOAA were leveraged not only for the park design and construction, but also for the small pockets of salt marsh restoration which remain healthy over a decade later and, in the words of a NOAA coastal habitat restoration expert, "the most successful salt marsh restoration in such a heavily utilized industrial waterway" that he had ever seen. The community also contributed the art seen on the fence-line around the site. The Condor Street Urban Wild stands out as the first (and for many year only) public access point on the Chelsea Creek, and as a testament to community activism.
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