The City of Boston kicked off a community process for renovations to Mission Hill Playground with a virtual public meeting on November 5.
The Gazette spoke with Parks Commissioner Ryan Woods about the city’s thoughts for the improvements, as well as what will come next.
The Mission Hill Playground, located at 60 Smith Street, currently features a playground, a water spray area, a mini basketball court, swings, a seating area along shaded pathways, and a turf field for various sports. The consultant for the improvements project is Kyle Zick Landscape Architects.
Woods said that is has been “at least” 15 years since updates have been made to the playground, and the goal of the Parks Department is “to have a park that is well programmed and well-utilized.”
The budget for the new improvements is about $2.6 million, but Woods said that the Parks Department also received a $400,000 Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant last week, which is the maximum award amount for one project, according to the state. “That’s really going to help us finish off the baseball field,” Woods said, which would have otherwise not had enough funding to complete.
He said that the Mission Hill Playground is in a “very interesting location” due to its three tiers on a slope, so he said the Parks Department is exited to be “engaging with the community on what they want to see done.”
He said that 18 people attended the virtual community meeting to talk about what they think works in the park and what they think might need improvement.
He said the middle tier on Tremont St. is a large focus of the project, with the potential relocation of the spray feature. He said that at the meeting, discussion topics included things like whether the basketball area should be retained, and people were also asked what features of the playground they liked best.
Right now, the water feature sprays out from up above, but the project team wants to know if people would like to see a different water feature instead. Woods said that feedback so far has indicated that people are very interested in having some sort of water feature in the park.
“We want to make amenities in the park and have people feel welcomed in the park,” Woods said. “Mayor Walsh is a firm believer that having more positive activity in the park pushes away that negative behavior.”
Other people shared that they use the park as a cut through, so people would like to see the pathways renovated so the park can better connect to the community at large.
There were also some concerns with kids climbing the retaining walls and parents are worried about their safety. Woods said that people “asked us to look at the walls—how can they be engaging and safe spaces instead of kids climbing on these walls?”
The park is heavily used by camps and school groups during non-COVID times, as well as the library and the Tobin Community Center, Woods said.
Right now, the project is still beginning, and there is plenty of time for people to give feedback. The playground survey, as well as more information about the park, can be found at https://www.boston.gov/departments/parks-and-recreation/improvements-mission-hill-playground.
More community meetings will be held in the future that will “tell the scope and the lay of the land” for the project, Woods said, as well as introduce some conceptual ideas to the public for feedback, and then eventually a final design will be agreed upon.
“I just think that we’re very excited about this $3 million investment going in the middle of Mission Hill to bring a high quality park and playground to the residents of Mission Hill,” Woods said, “and that it is a safe and inviting place that everybody wants to go to.”