Public Park Proposed for Illogical, Impractical, Remote Section of Seaport District

Shirley Leung, columnist for the Boston Globe, along with several other civic-minded people, thinks Dry Dock #4 in the Seaport District would be a great place to build a public park.

On a glorious summer day, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. You can soak in the downtown skyline, admire Liberty Wharf, spot a harbor island — all against the backdrop of glistening water and passing sailboats. And at night, you can imagine enjoying live music wafting from the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, which sits next door.

As Shirley mentions, the dock, long out of use and currently a rotting pile of wood, is out past the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, about as far as anyone goes who doesn’t live or work in the neighborhood. The dock is inaccessible, blocked off to foot traffic by the city, and, on nights when there are concerts at Blue Hills, by a fence put up by the owners of that venue. (Even though they don’t own the land in question, and even though it’s part of the public Boston Harborwalk.)

Normally, I’d praise this sort of idea. A public park, in theory, brings life and enjoyment to areas.

In this case specifically, though, it makes no sense, at least as proposed. Parks, I would think, would be where people already congregate or that are easily accessible, not in locations involving long walks and bus rides. (The Arnold Arboretum is perhaps the exception to the rule, although I’d say it suffers from forcing most people using it to drive there.)

Current conditions:

The image accompanying this post is just a rendering drawn up by Alex Krieger, local citizen, so I shouldn’t criticize in any way, but I will anyway: it doesn’t make any sense. You wouldn’t build a massive new park and then take up 80% of it for a pool that could only be used during 4 months of the year (at best) and that would require millions of gallons of fresh water to keep running. And, the dock is currently barren of any trees, grass, or dirt, so all of that would have to be trucked in, planted, and maintained. That’s not cheap. (Ask the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, if you doubt the veracity – they haven’t covered their expenses during any of the years they’ve been up and running.)

I was incredulous reading Shirley’s Leung’s column where she quotes Don Law (promoter & owner of the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion – I think?) saying he’d write a check to help cover some of the costs of turning the dock into a park. His company bars passersby from walking the Harborwalk during concerts, and the police (at his request?) shoo boaters away from behind the Pavilion, as well.

I just don’t see the park, as proposed, to end up being successful. Instead? No pools, for one thing. Greenery seems nice but at what cost? What about an expansion of the New England Aquarium? Few remember way back when the Aquarium proposed taking over a pier in the Charlestown Navy Yard for its new headquarters? That was cool. (They were going to enclose the pier in glass, then fill the berth with sea water, adding flora and fauna and sea life into it, like they do in their man-made aquarium on the Boston Waterfront.)

The Dry Dock #4 proposal is being pushed in part by the Trustees of Reservations, a local non-profit conservation organization, which is looking to expand its landownings to include park space within the city of Boston. That’s great!

I’m just not sure that this location makes any sense, in any form.