Green Roots Envisions a Waterfront Park

By Seth Daniel

Envision the sounds of water lapping up on the shore while one sits in a lawn chair gazing at the boats passing by – in Chelsea.

That’s exactly what the GreenRoots organization will do this coming Jan. 17 when it holds an organizational planning meeting to talk about a waterfront park at some location on Marginal Street.

Directors Roseann Bongiovanni and Maria Belen Power said this week they are confident that a waterfront park is going to happen at some point, and they want residents to begin planning and thinking about that reality.

“We’re confident that something will happen and we want to get ahead of the process,” said Bongiovanni.

“We specifically want the community to be involved from the beginning and not later on towards the end,” said Power.

To that end, they will have residents brainstorming about what they would like to see there, and they will be bringing a student intern from MIT to show some concepts for a possible waterfront park. That student is currently working at the Landing Studio, which is the award-winning design firm that put together the PORT Park on the Chelsea waterfront.

Bongiovanni said when the firm heard about the visioning for another waterfront park, they were happy to let the student intern work on the conceptual project for GreenRoots.

“That student may even have a few conceptual designs to show,” she said.

The idea for a waterfront park and to begin envisioning that park came when GreenRoots held its grand opening at its Marginal Street office right on the edge of the water.

“Because of our proximity to the water at our office, you could hear the water and see it very prominently that day,” said Bongiovanni. “People there really started to fee the connection to the water and we took note of that.”

Already, the PORT Park broke the mold some years ago when it was the precursor to tearing down a series of unused old oil tanks to unlock – for the first time in generations – an unobstructed view of the waterfront. The park, owned and operated by Eastern Salt, has been a hit, and Bongiovanni and Power said it is evidence that industrial marine activities, so prevalent on the Creek, can exist alongside human and community uses.

“Residents want open space and access to the waterfront, and they haven’t had that in decades,” Bongiovanni said. “We want to make it a normal part of the landscape. Both uses can work together – open space and industrial…We really want to build a more balanced waterfront.”

Added Power, “The idea that times are changing is important. There can be this co-existence of both, what the industry needs and what the residents want.”

She also said residents don’t always remember that their homes – especially on the backside of the hill leading to Marginal Street – are very nearly waterfront property.

“People don’t realize how close they live to the Creek,” she said. “They are a stone’s throw and for years they have had all of the problems and none of the access. This is a chance to flip that.”

Beyond the waterfront park campaign and visioning process, Bongiovanni said she will lead a discussion regarding Ethanol Trains, as the state law that protected the community from them has expired this month.

“That law expired at the beginning of January and now we’re figuring out what to do now,” she said. “The state Emergency Management Agency was supposed to do a report and we don’t know if they did it or not. We need to figure out the next steps.”

Global Petroleum had presented a plan several years ago to ship Ethanol to its Revere oil terminal via the Commuter Rail lines that travel through Chelsea. Bongiovanni and a strong, multi-city group opposed it, as did several lawmakers, and were able to get a law that blocked the plan until further study could be done.

“Global has not indicated reactivation of the rail lines, but they also didn’t tell us the first time they wanted to re-activate them,” she said.

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