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American Society of Landscape Architects


January 2006 Issue

For the Birds
In Boston, a park attracts birds, and the birds attract people.

By Marty Carlock

In Boston, a park attracts birds, and the birds attract people. Monroe Whitaker

The neighbors wanted birds.

In 1999, for the first time in 30 years, the city of Boston planned to add a new park, a half-acre in a mixed commercial–residential area. It would be only three blocks to the south of baseball’s storied Fenway Park with its crowds and traffic woes. Yet a strip of the Fens, Frederick Law Olmsted’s masterpiece of urban park design, would lie a block to the west.

The community around what would become Ramler Park in 2004 cast its lot with the Fens. Asked for input, neighbors specified a passive park (no tot lot, no skateboard lures), a water feature, and plantings attractive to birds. Dedicated birders have listed some 180 avian species in the Olmsted park, and there was hope of luring some of them to Ramler Park.

Before its rehabilitation, the plot was a trash magnet, sometimes used for a parking lot. It lies amid brick 1920s apartment buildings, uninspired to begin with and now aging. Up the streets on either side are small storefront businesses and ethnic restaurants. Residents of these apartments are a diverse group that includes elderly people, immigrants, and students; few children live in the neighborhood.

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