Friday, September 9, 2016

Shade(s) of things to come on the Arborway

Mature 'Princeton' American Elms, representative of Casey plantings (but not to scale)
UPDATE 9/22/16: Some of the first 15 trees planted, view east
UPDATE 9/22/16: Some of the first 15 trees planted, view west
UPDATE 9/22/16: nine trees await planting
MassDOT recently announced that the first plantings in the Casey Arborway project area will begin during the week of September 18, 2016. They intend to plant the first batch of 'Princeton' American Elms in the mainline Arborway median from Shea Circle roughly halfway to Washington Street. These stately trees are the first of 578 to be planted within the project area before work is complete.

The existing Arborway and Jamaicaway trees are an aging monoculture of Red Oaks, all equally susceptible to disease and drought pressures. But MassDOT's landscaping plans for the Casey Arborway, prepared by a team of landscape architects including the consulting staff of Crosby, Schlessinger and Smallridge, HNTB, DCR, as well as George Batchelor and Robbin Bergfors of MassDOT, specify an astounding variety of species and cultivars - and in very large quantities.

Most plants specified are native or drought-resistant varieties known to thrive in urban settings. The overall plan is designed to compliment the neighboring Arnold Arboretum, with trees and plantings arranged in collections that bring the Arboretum's bounty and beauty out into the surrounding community and enhance wildlife habitat in the corridor through a great diversity of plant life.

Three hundred and fifty three deciduous trees will ultimately be planted, including four varieties of maple, two varieties of birch, yellowwood, beech, coffetrees, locust, larch, sweetgum, tulip trees, tupelos, hophornbeams, planetrees, two varieties of oak, stewartia, lindens, elms and zelkovas. Evergreen trees to be planted include holly and arborvitae.

But it is perhaps in the 186 flowering ornamental trees specified for the project where the landscaping will really shine, providing a long-lasting display of springtime delight nearest to abutting homes, three miles of new pedestrian sidewalks and three miles of bike paths. Ornamental tree plans call for five varieties of shad trees, four different redbud varieties, seven different dogwoods, four hawthorn varieties, fringetrees, five different magnolia varieties, four different crabapples, four varieties of cherry and two lilac tree variants.

Many of the 383 shrubs included in the design are flowering varieties as well. Forsythia, hydrangea, juniper, rhododendron and spirea are all on their way to the Casey Arborway.

There will be a huge amount and variety of groundcovers and bulbs too. 16,652 one-gallon bugleweeds, sweet woodruffs, spotted dead nettles and thymes will be planted. 150 Climbing hydrangeas will soften retaining walls. 1,965 daffodil bulbs in five varieties will be harbingers of spring, and there will be 77 irises and 1,120 violets as well. 2,444 Boston ivy vines, and some 6,000 grasses in many varieties (oak sedge, fountain grass, lilyturf, switch grass, saltmeadow cordgrass and little bluestem) are to be planted, with many providing seasonal flowering, color and structure.

After years of contentious debate and years more of disruptive construction, Forest Hills and the Casey Arborway will become one of the true gems of the Emerald Necklace parkway system, a revitalized transit hub for Jamaica Plain, and a beautiful and accessible recreational corridor for Boston connecting Southwest Corridor Park, the Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park.

The first trees being planted soon are only the beginning, shades of things to come on the Casey Arborway.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

DCR should update community on Arborway redesign

It has been eleven months since the DCR last updated the community on efforts to address multi-modal safety and access on the Arborway in Jamaica Plain. A public meeting on the project's status is now long overdue. This portion of the Emerald Necklace Parkways is dangerous to all users and after two decades of traffic research, consultant design work and public hearings action is needed to make these roads safe for cyclists, pedestrians and the thousands of cars that use it daily. I encourage all interested parties to write to DCR Commissioner Leo Roy calling for just such a meeting. My own letter follows:

August 31, 2016

Commissioner Leo Roy
Department of Conservation and Recreation
251 Causeway Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Dear Commissioner Roy,

I write to declare my support for the DCR's ongoing efforts regarding "Improved Multi-Modal Safety & Access to Emerald Necklace Parks in Jamaica Plain (Arborway)" and to urge the DCR to hold public meetings updating the community on progress towards that goal as soon as possible.

I attended the two kick-off meetings in February 2015 as well as the follow-up meeting in October 2015 which included updates on related efforts regarding the Parkman Drive/Perkins Street Intersection at Jamaica Pond, the Centre Street corridor between the VFW Parkway and the Murray Circle rotary along with the Arborway section between Kelly Circle and the Casey Arborway including Murray Circle. In an effort to inform the surrounding community about these meetings and presentations, I described them fully in a blog I edit called ArborwayMatters available at the following links:

Over the last one hundred years the Emerald Necklace parkway corridor has evolved away from its original Olmsted-era recreational intent and is now, particularly in the study area of the Arborway and vicinity, quite dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists as well as the many vehicles that try to navigate it daily - very often at speeds far in excess of posted limits. Accidents occur regularly in the corridor, some resulting in fatalities. Murray and Kelly Circle are both poorly designed hazards to all users, are located within residential communities, and are vitally in need of improvement.

I was greatly encouraged by the thoughtful and innovative preliminary research and design work conducted by your contractor Toole Design in particular, and impressed by their responsiveness to community feedback in the work they did between the two meetings. I can also attest based on blog traffic to the above summaries and a well-attended Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council meeting last night where the topic was discussed, that Toole's work to date has been well received by many local residents and by drivers, pedestrians and cyclists who look forward to a more rational road network and significant traffic calming on the Arborway.

The community was assured at the October 2015 meeting that a 25% Design Plan for Phase 1 would be presented at a 25% Public Meeting to be held in "Winter/Spring 2016" and that Design Plans and Permitting for Phase 1 would be finalized between "Summer 2016 and Fall 2017" when construction was to begin.

The community eagerly awaits an update on the current state of design and the construction timeline. Thank you for your support of these important endeavors.

Clayton Harper

Secretary Matthew Beaton
Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Steven Kadish
Chief of Staff
Office of the Governor
Massachusetts State House Room 360
Boston, MA 02133

Michael Harris
Director of Governmental Affairs
Department of Conservation and Recreation
251 Causeway Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Office of State Representative Jeffrey Sánchez
Massachusetts State House, Room 236
Boston, MA 02133