Target Area 1: Sprague Pond
Sprague Pond is a two-acre body of water currently owned by the Boston Conservation Commission under the Boston city government. Sprague Pond is included within the Fowl Meadow/Ponkapoag Bog Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), which lies along the Neponset River, and is part of an important open space corridor for mammals, as well as a stopover for migratory birds. However, the pond is currently surrounded by industrial buildings, and is cut off from the remainder of the Neponset ecosystem by roads and infrastructure. This site is particularly significant because of the work needed in order to restore water quality in the region. At the time of ACEC designation, the Department of Environmental Protections (DEP) Bureau of Resource Protection noted that the Neponset River did not meet the Massachusetts Surface Water Quality Standards, especially due to nonpoint pollution. Public commentary further aligns with this view and demonstrates that industrial buildings around Sprague Pond have polluted what was once a publicly accessible natural treasure.
Urban ponds frequently include threatened species of conservation concern and are important for encouraging biodiversity. Sprague Pond is certainly a good example of this, as it was reported in 2015 that the ACEC encompassing Sprague Pond provided habitats for at least 13 rare species, including the Blue-Spotted Salamander. Taking this into account, proper management of urban pond and wetland systems is a major priority for the Terrascope Class of 2024, and Sprague Pond provides a case study for the ways in which urban ponds can be protected. Boston is notable for including many other pond and lake ecosystems, including Turtle Pond, Jamaica Pond, and Mill Pond. The recommendations for improvement of Sprague Pond management are expected to be applicable in many of these similarly placed urban pond ecosystems.
Generally, urban pond management requires monitoring of five major factors: (1) nutrients (particularly nitrates and phosphates), (2) urban pollutants, (3) aquatic vegetation, (4) non-native invasive species, and (5) pond buffer area. The first two factors, nutrients and urban pollutants, fall under the general category of water quality management, and require monitoring of chemical concentrations within the pond, particularly because negative impacts on biodiversity are often correlated to urban pollutant presence in ponds. Management practices should favor endemic vegetation, particularly macrophytes, and biodiversity should be continuously monitored for the early detection of invasive species. Finally, in the pond buffer area, green spaces and wetlands should be encouraged, along with the promotion of corridors between the pond and surrounding ecosystems.
The Terrascope Class of 2024 has three major proposals for the continuous protection and restoration of Sprague Pond. These proposals are (1) monitoring of water quality and improved regulation of runoff, (2) prioritization of native vegetation and wildlife, and (3) increased green spaces in the buffer area surrounding the pond in order to minimize habitat fragmentation.
In regards to water quality monitoring and regulation of runoff, the Neponset River Watershed Association (NepWRA) is a nonprofit environmental conservation group currently monitoring water quality along the Neponset River. Specifically, the NepWRA includes the Citizen Water Monitoring Network (CWMN), a volunteer water quality monitoring organization which is both EPA approved, and which has been working since 1995 in 41 sampling sites along the Neponset River. The CWMN currently conducts several tests on water samples, including pH, presence of E. coli, phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia, and chlorophyll. The Terrascope Class of 2024 proposes the implementation of a similar volunteer-based water quality monitoring effort at Sprague Pond, in order to provide continuous and ongoing action towards reduction of pollution in the ecosystem.
The NepWRA has also formed the Neponset Stormwater Partnership (NSP) to encourage collaboration between several towns in Boston, along with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, on regional public outreach and education regarding stormwater management practices. This public outreach program includes guidelines for town governments in interacting with industrial facilities in the area, especially by encouraging direct outreach programs, online educational material, and free technical assistance. The Terrascope Class of 2024 encourages the adoption of similar forms of education and outreach towards both industrial facility owners and residents in the area surrounding Sprague Pond, in order to create greater awareness of environmentally sound stormwater management practices.
Native vegetation in the Neponset river and Sprague Pond ecosystems includes pickerelweed, arrow arum, and various algal species. Propagation of native vegetation in Sprague Pond is expected to naturally increase as polluted runoff into the pond decreases. With this in mind, the Terrascope Class of 2024 encourages the prioritization of native vegetation when constructing artificial green spaces or building around the pond. The class is specifically aware of a proposed development project by the Noannet Group, which includes the construction of two additional acres of green space around Sprague Pond. Terrascope Class of 2024 strongly encourages that all such green spaces be built using only native vegetation. The incorporation of endemic species into human development permits wildlife to continue using that land as habitat space, and also minimizes the fragmentation resulting from development.
Finally, the Terrascope Class of 2024 proposes the increase of green space in the land surrounding Sprague Pond, particularly because the pond is currently so deeply entrenched in industrial buildings. Due to private ownership of the majority of that land, this proposal primarily is intended to encourage private landowners and development firms to incorporate green space into their design plans. Even the inclusion of small patches of green space is sufficient to provide stepping stone corridors for wildlife, permitting connection between Sprague Pond and the Neponset River.
Target Area 2: West Roxbury Quarry and Wildlife Corridors
The Stony Brook Reservation is part of the Massachusetts state park system, and is managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). This reservation’s northern border falls along Washington Street, and extends across the street starting at the Lagrange St. intersection, where the reservation lands are met by Bellevue Hill Park.West of the Stony Brook Reservation, there is green space occupied by the Grove Street Cemetery and Dunbarton Woods. Following Grove St. up from the Dunbarton Woods leads to the Centre Marsh and West Roxbury Quarry.
Within this target area, there are two major issues which require resolution. The first is that each of the green spaces within West Roxbury are fragmented, or separated from each other by areas of human development. This is a problem that could be resolved through the development and construction of further wildlife corridors, as modeled after the existing VFW and West Roxbury Parkways. The second issue is that the West Roxbury Quarry is “a large highly scarred and disturbed landscape area in the middle of this neighborhood which could have significant impacts on the landscape character and density of the community if it was ever closed and redeveloped.” While denoted as an “open space” in the Boston Open Space and Recreation Plan maps, the West Roxbury Quarry is currently a deeply damaged landscape which is uninhabitable for wildlife (see Figures 9, 10). Reclamation and restoration of this quarry is critical and should become a high priority for the Boston Parks and Recreation Department.
Hence, the Terrascope Class of 2024 proposes a two-part solution within the West Roxbury region: (1) reclamation and restoration of the West Roxbury Quarry and (2) development of wildlife corridors along Grove St. and Lagrange St.
In regards to the West Roxbury Quarry, Boston Parks and Recreation noted in their Open Space and Recreation Plan that “options and desirability for retaining this area as long-term open space should be explored.” The Terrascope Class of 2024 feels that this is an understatement of the importance of obtaining this land and restoring it as a natural habitat. The West Roxbury Roslindale Bulletin, a local newspaper, wrote in 2018 that representatives from the West Roxbury Crushed Stone Quarry expressed an intention to fill the quarry. They filed with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in 2015, but did not follow up with the organization afterwards, and local controversy from 2014 to 2016 regarding what type of fill would be used resulted in quarry reclamation progress ceasing.
A Financial Assurance Cost Estimate for Permanente Quarry was developed in 2014, which summarizes the overall costs associated with quarry reclamation and restoration. This estimate incorporates direct costs (removal of structures, site grading, revegetation, monitoring, and maintenance), along with indirect costs such as the expense of mobilization or supervision, and resulted in a total cost of reclamation of about $54 million. Permanente Quarry encompasses 900 acres, and is thus far larger in scale than West Roxbury Quarry, which is approximately 60 acres., This size difference will greatly impact cost estimations, especially regarding placement of organic material and revegetation. Scaling this cost estimation in terms of the acreage and time investment required for West Roxbury Quarry reclamation leads to a final cost of about $3.2 million.
Reclamation at Saugus Quarry in Massachusetts has been approved in recent years, along with similar approvals in various other quarries, and guidelines for soil quality testing established in this quarry can be used as a model for West Roxbury Quarry, particularly as the two sites are similar in size and surrounding landscape. Furthermore, the Boston City Parks and Recreation Department has already committed to over $59 million in major renovation of parks and open space during the fiscal years of 2021-2025. The Terrascope Class of 2024 believes that a $3.2 million investment in reclamation and rewilding of the West Roxbury Quarry site will significantly contribute towards expansion of habitat and the restoration of biodiversity, and is especially worthwhile considering the city’s present willingness to commit towards investing in green space development.
The Terrascope Class of 2024 would like to encourage collaboration between the owners of West Roxbury Quarry, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and the Department of Environmental Protections (DEP), particularly because the DCR has ownership of Stony Brook Reservation, which ought to be connected to potential green space on the quarry site. Revegetation of the quarry site ought to specifically involve planting of endemic plant species, as per the list of plants native to the Stony Brook Area released by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Commonalities between plant species within West Roxbury Quarry and the Stony Brook Reservation permits the transfer of wildlife between areas, reducing habitat fragmentation.
In order to further address the crisis of habitat fragmentation, the group proposes the development of wildlife corridors along Grove St. and Lagrange St., modelled after the existing VFW and West Roxbury parkways.
Among the objectives addressed in Boston City’s Open Space and Recreation Plan for 2015-2021 is the expansion of parkway links connecting pre-existing parks. The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) completed construction of the Greenway corridor in 2014, with a total cost of about $7 million. The Greenway path is approximately half a mile in length, and the total project site had an area of 5.22 acres. This project group’s proposed parkways would encompass 0.9 miles along Grove St. and 0.7 miles along Lagrange St. The first parkway would connect Grove St. Cemetery to the Centre Marsh Park, while the second would stretch from the intersection of Lagrange and Washington St. to the Roxbury Latin School Woods Park. Estimating the width of each proposed corridor to be approximately 20 feet (in comparison with 12 feet in the Greenway corridor), the total area of the project site would be 3.9 acres. Based on a projection of costs proportional to the cost of Greenway development, these wildlife corridors would in sum cost an estimated $5.2 million dollars.
The Stony Brook Reservation is a space of immense ecological significance within Boston, and includes several unique pond and wetland ecosystems. Stony Brook is also the largest forested area remaining in Boston, with 466 acres preserved. Creating conduits for wildlife travel between this reservation and the Centre Marsh, Grove St. Cemetery, and Roxbury Latin School Woods would significantly expand the habitat space available for native species, while also protecting organisms from the challenges of habitat fragmentation and noise or light pollution. The further reclamation and restoration of the West Roxbury Quarry space would significantly aid in ameliorating the impacts of human disturbance in Boston, and holds the potential for great strides in biodiversity.
Target Area 3: Park Expansions in the Mattapan Neighborhood
The Boston Parks and Recreation Department released plans to increase parks in underserved areas, specifically including two regions in the Mattapan neighborhood of southern Boston. These project sites are located directly above the Neponset River Reservation and Estuary, which comprise an ACEC. Developing connections between the Neponset River Reservation and larger green spaces located near the top of the Mattapan neighborhood would be valuable in reducing habitat fragmentation and providing routes for wildlife travel between sites. Especially as the Neponset River Reservation is an ACEC, it is important that threatened species in the reservation are sheltered from human disturbance and provided maximal habitat space. The construction of several smaller parks within the locations marked “H” in Figure 11 would essentially serve the purpose of creating wildlife corridors in a “stepping stone” mechanism, and would permit wildlife travel within a far larger region.
Looking at the needs of the community, several regions within Mattapan are highlighted as areas most in need of park service development, based on the distance of each individual from their nearest park. The area west of Cummins Highway, the area north of the intersection of Walk Hill St. and Blue Hill Avenue, and the area between Morton St. and Gladeside I park are three major locations at which park development ought to occur.
Generally, it is estimated that construction costs for a moderate-activity urban park in Boston will equal about $2.6 million per acre, including softscaping, hardscaping, and development of facilities. This cost estimation can be used in order to approximate the investment required for park development in each of the three major areas of need.
Within the Terrascope Class of 2024, this proposal will focus on the development of one specific park, in order to demonstrate a process of planning and development which could be emulated in other locations. The area between Morton St. and Gladeside I will be the focus of this section of the proposal. This location includes a currently undeveloped green plot adjacent to the parking lot of Harbor Health Services (see Figure 12). The project site includes a total of about 2 acres of undeveloped land, which should be used to construct a park serving the surrounding neighborhoods and providing wildlife connectivity between the Gladeside I park, William G. Walsh playground, and the Neponset Reservation. The construction of a park in this region will cost approximately $5.2 million, which could be funded by the Boston Parks and Recreation investment of over $10 million towards park renovations in the fiscal years of 2021-2025.
Target Area 4: Extension of the Southwest Corridor Park & South Bay Harbor Trail
Finally, the last target space within the Terrascope Class of 2024’s proposal for Boston involves an extension of the Southwest Corridor and South Bay Harbor Trail. These two corridors are currently connected to each other and are located directly above the Clifford Playground, as well as a region of proposed park development from the Boston Parks and Recreation report. The extension of the South Bay Harbor Trail to connect to the Clifford Playground would extend a 4.5 mile corridor and would be a significant addition to the connectivity of Boston’s green spaces.,
Construction of the wildlife corridor extension should follow similar practices as seen in the South Bay Harbor Trail. The corridor would be constructed along Massachusetts Avenue for a total of 0.5 miles, resulting in a project site area of about 1.2 acres. Following the metric of cost estimation used in target area two, in which construction costs from the Greenway Corridor were scaled to fit the intended project site, this extension of the South Bay Harbor Trail should cost about $1.6 million. The Terrascope Class of 2024 strongly agrees with Boston Parks and Recreation intentions to develop new parks in the area west of Massachusetts Avenue, and feels that these park expansions would complement the proposed extension of the South Bay Harbor Trail. Wildlife corridors and green spaces are solutions which function together in order to reduce the impacts of habitat fragmentation on urban biodiversity.