Deteriorating Jamaica Plain Park Due for Update

By Tyler Bordick
BU News Service

While some Jamaica Plain residents point the finger at BMX riders for the deteriorating condition of Olmsted Park, city park officials also say it’s a matter of aging infrastructure.

Residents blame “renegades” for destroying trail paths, vegetation and tree development in the park with their bikes and reckless attitude.

“The renegades are causing extensive and lasting damage to the land and the trees,” said Rosemary Jones, 71, a long-time Jamaica Plain resident.

However, Margaret Dyson, Director of Historic Parks for the Boston Parks and Recreation Department (BPRD), notes that “Age is a huge factor. The grandest trees and the granite stairs are more than a 100 years old and need rehabilitation. Also, invasive plants have altered the historic intent and the ecological systems.”

Even though Parks and Recreation officials concede the “renegades” are not the main culprit, they acknowledge they’re part of the problem.

“In certain locations, off-road bikes have contributed to erosion. These digging and mounding activities to create jumps and bumps damage trees and destroy plants,” said Dyson.

Police say that all they can do is tell bikers to stay on bike paths since there are no laws prohibiting them from being in the park.

Earlier this month, the BPRD approved a $575,000 budget for the Olmsted Park Restoration Project. The project is a part of $31 million being spent around the city to improve Boston parks in 2018. The Olmsted Park Renovation Project will include landscape rehabilitation, woodland restoration, stair stabilization and overall park beautification.

The Olmsted Park work will focus on high-priority risk areas, as identified by the consulting and design team, Presley Associates. The project will look to restore the northern portion of Olmsted Park, which is bordered by Jamaica Way, Perkins Street, Chestnut Street and Pond Avenue.

At a recent BPRD community meeting, Jamaica Plain residents discussed possible solutions to stop further impact on the park by bikers, but suggested it might be difficult.

“They are intimidating, aggressive and don’t care about anyone but themselves,” said Gerry Wright, 85, co-founder of the Friends of Jamaica Pond Association.

While some residents suggested an increased the security presence in the park, others believe education will solve the problem.

“They are unintentionally harming the park. If we inform them of the consequences of their actions, perhaps they will stop,” said John Gleason, 62, a member of the Jamaica Pond Association.

The Olmsted Park Restoration Project is currently in the pre-construction phase and awaiting final city approvals. Olmsted Park construction will begin in April 2018. The city hopes to reopen the park by the end of summer in August 2018.

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