There aren’t many places where kids can play in ocean breezes on a jungle gym while a giant oil tanker and tug boat troll the waters not 200 yards away, but chalk Chelsea up as one place where just such a thing can happen.
The long-awaited PORT Park on Marginal Street in the Eastern Minerals property opened late last week to the public and will now be open dawn to dusk 365 days a year.
“We are very excited to see the new park open, but we want to ensure the park is used now,” said Joe McNamee of Eastern Minerals. “We don’t want it to be done and forgotten. We really want to make sure this is a prime location that is used for the community and people who want to gather at the waterfront. There are so many people that live in that area up the hill and we look forward to them getting used to coming down and enjoying the park.”
Shelagh Mahoney, also of Eastern Minerals, said the park seems to open up a part of the City that was not easily travelled.
“The park exceeded our expectations,” she said. “It was hard to picture what the architects were doing. Now that it’s done, it has exceeded out expectations…Even just moving our gates back a little and landscaping the front of the park made a huge difference. You just didn’t walk on that side of Marginal Street. You didn’t walk there; you crossed and went up the hill.”
The new park – which residents got a preview of a few weeks ago during the Art Walk – is an award-winning landscape design that incorporates reused marine elements such as a tugboat wheelhouse and foam firefighting canons as play pieces for kids.
For the former foam canons; they are now water canons that kids can aim and spray at one another on hot summer days.
An old loading rack for the marine dock is now being reused as a stage and observation tower.
And the old skeletons of the derelict oil tanks that once blocked the now-beautiful view tower over the amphitheater and playground as distinctive overhead decorations – decorations that one day will be teaming with ivy to shade visitors from the hot sun.
“Many of the components are recycled or repurposed pieces of the of the oil terminal that was once there,” said Dan Adams, the landscape architect who designed the park with his wife, Marie, for Landing Studios. “The skeletons of the tanks are a prominent part of the park and, over time, vines will grow up the sides and provide shade. Also, the viewing platforms are simply a barge loading rack and a truck loading rack. Finally, one of the most popular pieces, are the spray fountains. They are really just former fire extinguisher canons from the oil terminal. They used to spray foam and they were re-plumbed and now they spray water.”
He added that the granite blocks used in the part are also repurposed and were part of the old seawall that used to line the area where the new Chelsea Street Bridge is located. He said during construction of the bridge, crews were looking to get rid of the old seawall, and he saw a great use in the park.
Part of the park will be used year round – the part where the oil tank skeletons are now at. However, the seasonal part of the park – where basketball courts, open space and additional parking now lie – will not be open during the cold months. Instead, that space will be used for salt storage during those months.
Already, the basketball court has seen plenty of use and is one of the only courts in that area of the City – and certainly it is the only court with a waterfront view.
Meanwhile, the track – for which 16 laps equals one mile – has seen heavy use by at least one park-goer.
“I had one woman tell me that she ran six miles on the track, and that’s well over 100 laps if you do the math,” said Adams.
Mahoney said her clear favorite at the new park is the water canons.
“I have to say I really like the water canons,” she said. “There are a lot of cool things, but that’s my favorite.”
All three said they hope that community groups take advantage of using the seasonal area for small gatherings. Last year, the Taste of Chelsea was held at the PORT, and already plans are underway to host that event again at the PORT. Other groups, such as the Boys & Girls Club, have expressed interest in having something there as well.
That’s welcome news to both Mahoney and McNamee.
“It’s really all kind of new still, so we’re feeling it out as well,” said McNamee. “There are so many things it could be used for and we hope it does get a lot of use. One thing we want to see is people using it.”
Both also said they wanted to thank City Manager Jay Ash, ISD Director Joe Cooney and the City Council – among others – for helping to get the novel park up and running.