Martin’s Park opens on South Boston Waterfront with accessible, inclusive children’s playground | Q&A with Chris Cook, Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space for the City of Boston

An acre of beautifully landscaped park designed by world-renowned landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh has opened on the South Boston Waterfront, beside the Children’s Museum. Martin’s Park—named in honor of Martin W. Richard, the youngest victim of the Boston Marathon Bombings—features an inclusive, green outdoor play space for children to enjoy, with views of downtown Boston.

“We don’t want this park to be a memorial,” Bill Richard, Martin’s father, told WBZ-TV. “We want it to be a park. We want it to be fun. We want it to be loud and boisterous. We just want kids and families to come and have a good time.”

Dotted throughout with trees, shrubs and other plantings, the new open space is a welcoming piece of green overlooking Fort Point Channel. With a cleverly designed layout incorporating something for everyone, visitors, workers, residents and children can all enjoy the space, which replaces Children’s Wharf Park. Among its many new offerings are a wooden pirate ship-shaped play structure, an amphitheater, a “stone scramble” with mossy boulders, wooden harbor walk seating, slides, a shade structure, a reflection garden, and log climber.

Martin’s Park officially opened to the public with a ceremony on June 15, 2019.

Chris Cook, Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space for the City of Boston sat down with The Trustees One Waterfront team, to talk about the visionary park.

Chris Cook, Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space for the City of Boston  (right) attends the opening of Martin’s Park with Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

Chris Cook, Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space for the City of Boston (right) attends the opening of Martin’s Park with Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind Martin’s Park, and the site that was chosen for its construction?

The Richard family was interested in acknowledging the support they have received from the entire city. Working with Mayor Walsh, they settled on the idea of an inclusive playground and then decided to identify a location where the park would have a dramatic impact. One of their earliest emails on the subject actually suggested a possible location in the Seaport near the Children’s Museum. The parcel next to the museum was always intended to be a vibrant waterfront park by city and state planners. However, the location was a very complicated set of city, state and private properties, and momentum for the park had stalled for more than a decade. It was almost as if the space was waiting for this idea.

Q: Why does greenery take center stage in this design, with over 1,000 trees and shrubs, approximately 9,400 ground cover plantings, and more than 4,000 white daffodils, all in one acre?

I think that a hallmark strength of the design firm, MVVA, is the recognition of the additive role nature has to play. Also, the family wanted this space to have a park feel—that play equipment wouldn’t be isolated from trees and plants but rather opportunities for play are found among them. The result is transformative. Contemplative, restorative moments occur steps from a splash pad and swings. The habitat created is already filled with birdsongs, pollinators and children’s laughter. The diversity of experience in one acre is remarkable.

Click here  for more photos of the park from the opening ceremony

Click here for more photos of the park from the opening ceremony

Q: The park will clearly be a hit with children and their parents. Who else should care about open, green space in the city? What’s your favorite feature of this new park?

Boston is only the second city in the United States to have 100% of its residents within a ten minute walk to a park.  However, we still need to add green space to our city. Two new parks are currently in development in Mattapan. The Boston Parks Department recently partnered with the Department of Neighborhood Development to expand Children’s Park in Roxbury. Our green space needs to grow because our city’s population is growing. The health benefits residents receive from living near a park are well-documented.

Parks are also playing an outsized role in how cities prepare and plan for climate change. Martin’s Park is one of the first projects of Mayor Walsh’s Resilient Boston Harbor plan—using green space to wall off and absorb sea level rise. My favorite feature of the park is the message it sends. That, in Boston, we are adapting for a future with a focus on inclusion and accessibility.

Q: How can people get involved, join the conversation, and be a part of the vision for Boston’s parks and open space going forward?

The Boston Parks Department runs an extensive community process as it renovates and creates parks—but even if you can’t attend meetings, send emails with your suggestions. Join or start a friends group for your local park. Use the 311 system to request new trees, make suggestions, report broken equipment and more. Stewardship relies on both big and small gestures and commitments of all sizes are meaningful. Public land doesn’t work without the public’s involvement.

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The Trustees’ multi-year One Waterfront Initiative is focused on working with the City and public and private partners to protect waterfront open space and create a series of public parks for all. [Click here to explore our concepts, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh]. We look forward to sharing updates, public events and progress.