Boston councilor wants to sell off city park - in Woburn

The Dig reports City Councilor Josh Zakim has resurrected a so far failed effort by Boston to sell off a 218-acre park in Woburn a landowner deeded the city in 1930.

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Woburn could buy it

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They don't have to sell it to a private developer.

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Call

Hannity, Bundy & the Oath Keepers. A militia roadblock on 128 in Woburn will prevent a further government takeover of government owned land.

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What?

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Selling public parkland for a one time pittance is shady.

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For a park?

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Who's going to rent a park? The city is only allowed to use the land as a public park, it can't rent the land out for development without breaking the trust. The article doesn't say specifically, but my guess is that if Boston breaks the trust it will probably lose the land.

Dig writers clearly cyclists

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because they think that the park on the Woburn/Burlington line is about one hour north of the City.

On second thought, I suppose it might be - from Readville, at rush hour.

On third thought, they probably aren't cyclists, because most of us UHub-type cyclists could probably reliably make it there from many points in the City in less than an hour!

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Try it a 5:30 PM

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Start from the parking lots in Seaport. It will take you an hour, most days.

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How naively optimistic!

I live in Readville, and you have to allow an hour to get anywhere north of the Charles at any time other than the dead of night.

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True for inner metro travel, but not for a trip to Woburn

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I agree with you that the simple act of crossing the lower Charles (from Waltham eastward) seems to add a strangely large chuck of time to any trip, but for those of us in the western part of the city (you in Readville, me in Rosi), that phenomena doesn't really come into play for a trip to Woburn.

Just pop onto 95 and unless it's rush hour or a holiday weekend, you should get to Woburn in about a half hour. Ironically, I can get to Woburn as fast (or faster) than I can to Logan.

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Perhaps the BRA can figure

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Perhaps the BRA can figure out a way to designate it as "urban blight" and seize it and all of Woburn by eminent domain.

More likely, the city will collude with Woburn to get them to take it by eminent domain, turn it into an office park, and split the profits.

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Wait? The City of Boston

Wait? The City of Boston owns a park in Woburn? Except for the clause in the will, this seems like an no-brainer: give the park to Woburn. Of course, Woburn probably doesn't want the burden of another park.

I've never heard of this organization, the "Playground and Recreation Association of America." A quick Google search tells me that it might actually have been named the "Playground Association of America" and has since become the National Recreation and Parks Association. Based in Virginia, it seems to be mostly an advocacy and professional-development agency for professionals in the field. I don't see any indication on the organization's website that it has a portfolio of parks under its management.

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There was a point for the park, once

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I was just talking about this strange land arrangement last week.

The idea at the time was that all of these city kids, who are stuck in squalor and urban grit, should be sent out to the countryside to experience the goodness that once finds in sylvan pastures.

Of course, no city kids ever visit Woburn, except for perhaps riding the bus to the Burlington Mall, but at that, I'm guessing very few city kids visit the Burlington Mall.

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Chik Fil-A

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That's what gets me to the Burlington Mall (which is why I was talking about the Cummings park last week.) Other than that, I would see no reason to visit there.

Of course, if the City of Boston allowed Chik Fil-A in Boston, then I'd have no reason to head that way, and I do love my suburban shopping centers.

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BS Detectors FIRING RED ALERT

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Of course, if the City of Boston allowed Chik Fil-A in Boston

Oh, they are allowed so long as they abide by the laws of the City and Commonwealth regarding wage and hour issues and forced prayer sessions and discrimination against non-christian, non-straight, non-white people.

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Ye who smelt it indeed must have dealt it

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So, Adam reported wrong here, and the whole nation didn't mock the mayor for basically saying that Chick-Fil-A (I admit, I spelled it wrong above) wasn't allowed in Boston? Well, someone has a complaint about the reporting on some news sources.

Look, I don't want to get into the whole thing about whether Truett Cathy's beliefs are wrong or right, or how it is a bit discriminatory to bring greater scrutiny on the business practices of someone based on the owner's beliefs on a single issue while giving a pass to every other competitor, because I think even Jon Stewart notes that perhaps the other side is a bit too zealous in their views. My point is that city folk, the very people who are to benefit from Cummings Park, have very little reason to be in Woburn.

Keep up your tolerance. Or should I say "tolerance."

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Oh yeah, one of my more fun discoveries

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.. is exploring traces of earlier leisure vacation destinations.

Longfellow repaired to far away Wellesley in his day.

Andover has old summer fun spots in Ballardvale. Pole Hill was a picnic and dance spot when the 19th century met the 20th and Jay Leno was a denizen of a Shawsheen river swimming hole and picnic area called Serios Grove.

Revere Beach was once a long haul and Sharon was home to a kind of local borscht belt scene by the 20s.

The trolley era brought people to distant, exotic Canobie Lake and the early auto era begat the odd tourist traps along the Mohawk Trail along old route 2.

The White Mountains area really began to take off in the 40s and 50s.

Cheaper air travel and the interstate highway system led to further expansion for what might be leisure travel.

Much of what I work on now heads in the other direction, making it easier for stressed over worked urban achievers to find appealing places where a bike won't be a problem, where a trail run will be inspiring or where a dog can run unleashed.

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When I was a kid, my

When I was a kid, my grandparents rented a cottage on a lake in Brookfield, Mass for a couple of weeks in the summer. If you get a little bit east or west of Springfield, there are many seasonal communities surrounding lakes.

And, it comes full circle. There was an article in the NYT recently about Manhattanities going to the Rockaways for summer weekends. I can completely understand the appeal of hopping on an A train for an hour, rather than fighting traffic in Connecticut to get to your cabin in the Berkshires. I'm still not sold. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/16/fashion/summer-in-the-rockaways.html?a...

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The Rolling Stones used to stay in West Brookfield

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..when getting ready for US tours and they'd hang out in a Worcester gin mill.

There are dozens of great places out there. Lake Dennison in the north is a perfect kettlehole pond counterpart to Walden but less crowded and a Pow Wow spot used by Pometacomet or "King Phillip" is nearby.

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I have been told countless

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I have been told countless stories from parents, aunts and uncles about exotic trips to Shawseen Lake in Tewksbury, summer rentals in Melrose and hikes and picnics at Blue Hills. While quite funny to my generation, these were dirt poor depression era city kids and their trips were most certainly exotic in those days.

As things got better and someone actually got a car, they would quite frequently spend a day in New York City (via car).
As poor as my parents were as children, they sure seemed to enjoy life quite a bit.

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Norumbega Park

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But my heart belongs to Millis, once the Catskills of Massachusetts, where you could get to resort hotels serving kosher food by trolley from Forest Hills.

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That can be ascribed to resource limitations.

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Town historical commissions vary widely in how much effort they can put into lore.

This is often true with other town elements that aren't considered essential.

In the course of building out Bay Circuit reference content, the absence of any useful public source information is the main factor in how I schedule site visits.

It's just good SEO. There is next to nothing out in the way of maps or anything on the Smith Nawazelski Conservation Area in Hanson, a sweet little parcel.

So I basically own that search page until Hanson gets around to providing a map or something.

Dog owners take note: This is one of many dog friendly parcels in the area where you can treat your furry friend to leashlessness.

And similarly, the chance to add to the available lore for a place like Millis is one of the great things about Web 2.0

I might go poke around there some time as it is near another abandoned railroad zone involving the Bay Colony line. That is slated to be a greenway in Needham with possible participation from Dover and Medfield.

http://www.baycolonyrailtrail.org/

Bringing this back to Woburn ..

wasn't Horn Pond a bit of a resort area at one time? The 'mountain' on the pond's west side used to be a ski area, and some ruins of that remain visible today.

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Extraterritorial parks - another example

This isn't the only one. The town of Arlington owns a large park called Arlington's Great Meadows -- which is actually entirely within the town of Lexington. The park boundary doesn't even touch the Lexington-Arlington town line.

You can reach this park by walking or biking up the Minuteman Bikeway -- it will be on your right about 1/2 mile after you enter Lexington from Arlington.

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Cambridge bought land in Lincoln

Cambridge in the last few years bought land in Lincoln because they were so flush with Community Preservation Act (CPA) tax dollars. They claimed the land was part of the watershed for some of their drinking water, thus eligible for purchase with some sort of preservation justification.

What greatly troubles me is the waste of park maintenance dollars on lawyers and the like - political handouts to friends. Money ought to be spent as intended.

In the end, the state's Attorney General's Office, I believe, has authority in trust issues, and should do its job honoring the wishes of Mary Cummings, protecting trusts from looting.

Cambridge Reservoir

Yes, that exists, and what they did made sense.

Not that you'd notice in your never-ending hatred of Cambridge and their zest for protecting the health, safety, and quality of life of their citizenry.

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Arlington cock blocked it years ago.

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The reputed reason was fear of 'urbans' on the other end of the line in Ashmont.

The T never wanted to just end it in an old clay pit in Cambridge.

Now, it would seem to be moot but the costs would probably be insane compared to when it was originally envisioned.

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Make it a golf course

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A la Torrey Pines in SD area or the Black course at Bethpage. Generates millions in revenue - provides jobs, including summer jobs for teenagers, draws in visitors for major events and the USGA is looking for world class courses in urban areas for major championships (three opens and 4-5 national amateur events) - meaning the USGA may chip in a big chunk of change. Boston (and maybe as cooperation Woburn?) residents get favored greens fees and tee times and then charge outside visitors through the nose. Looks like there's enough room to make the course AND keep the perimeter as parkland with 218 acres. You already own the land - just need to pay for construction - possibly subsidized by the USGA.

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Boston already has several

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Boston already has several taxpayer subsided golf courses, how many do we need? If we pay for another can we get rid of the Franklin Park one and return that land to parkland?

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And I think both make money

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Or at least roughly break even - as some of the money is being reinvested in the courses - esp. George Wright - which is looking pretty good these days. I go elsewhere in the summer - but if I get a warm afternoon in the early Spring or late Fall - I have been known to shoot out for a few holes when they are not crowded.

Done right, this proposal would probably generate several million dollars a year in surpluses - and if there is one department in the city that could use some extra revenue it's the Parks Dept.

No need for golf courses

That's half-year recreation at best, as well as lots of toxics use for groundskeeping.

http://cummingspark.org/thepark

I wonder why these people who actually live near to and use the park don't seem to be rallying their communities to buy it off of Boston. That would be a far better solution to the stated issues.

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Year round AND not toxic

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Golf courses can be used for other purposes in the off months (December-March) - biking, sledding, X-country skiing etc.

Also, new courses can actually be beneficial to the environment. Many newer ones are actually designed in part as wildlife sanctuaries. I play a course in FL once a year that is an Audubon sanctuary and a mecca for all kinds of wildlife from gators to birds to panthers.

On top of everything - done right, the project funds lots of other parks and activities.

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If the course allows it.

If the course allows it. There was a wonderful course near me that stopped allowing sledding when we were kids because of liability, and damage to the turf.

That's the thing, once it becomes private, the owner controls who, and who does not, have access to that property.

You paying the water bill?

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Golf courses, with few exceptions, are environmental nighmares.

Something tells me that this land is an environmental nightmare already, aka WR Grace ...

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Depends

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Many golf courses just draw from water on-site. Usually develop a pond or lake at the lowest point of the course and recycle the water via a pump (Ok - it takes electricity to run the pump). Newer golf courses are rarely if ever an environmental nightmare (I think there was a Trump course on the West Coast that was an exception due to erosion - in fairness to the Donald, I think he actually came in and fixed the problems caused by a prior developer).

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Winchester Country Club dug a well

They got tired of paying exorbitant water AND sewer fees to Arlington. Arlington has refused to have water-only meters for customers who are watering gardens and yards. Water only meters are up again at this Town Meeting and hopefully will pass. Water only customers have been subsidizing sewer costs for everyone else too long.

Oh, if you think to bring up conservation, forget it. When Arlington residents reduced water consumption, selectmen rewarded them with higher rates to make up the lost revenue!

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This would be the smart move.

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This would be the smart move. Instead the city/BRA will sell it to a friend of a friend for a $1 and declare it a victory for the public.

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Inside 128

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Only a handful of public courses - and none of them very good.

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I wouldn't bet on golf right now

Courses are hurting for business and a lot of clubs are hurting for members. This ain't no Torrey Pines.

How about just keeping it for passive recreation?
Or put a dog park in? *ducking*
Or mt bike trails?
Nothing wrong with leaving open space

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Cost

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It costs money to leave open space. Insurance, security, even minimal maintenance of trails, signage, fencing etc.

The city doesn't have the money to maintain it - they've said as much. Woburn probably doesn't either. Selling it, especially as a park, nets you very little.

Outside of 128, I'd agree - the golf biz is suffering. Inside - whole different story. Granite Links is constantly packed. This would be too - and would probably be better than Granite Links (great views - quirky golf course). Would take a lot of biz from the 495/Plymouth area courses.

Best of all - it's probably not an either/or. You use about 150 acres for the golf and ring it with picnic areas/biking and more - all supported by the fees from the golf course and related facilities. Hell - I'd go there just for the driving range. Only range nearby is McGolf and it takes me close to an hour to get there in rush hour.

Short of building on it, I don't see a feasible alternative.

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Maintenance is supposed to be

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Maintenance is supposed to be partially paid with the income from 53 North Market Street, at least according to the will. That address is right in the middle of Quincy Market, but does the city still own any of that?

According to the Friends of the Park's website....

Any perceived lack of funds in the principal account of the trust is the City of Boston's own doing. In 1929, before the trust fund was even accepted by the City council, the Boston Transit Department seized the main asset of the trust, which was an office building on North Market Street. The compensation of $118,000 was withheld from the trust fund account. By any conservative estimate, the principal account should have grown to millions of dollars over the past 77 years that this money and interest has been withheld.

http://cummingspark.org/controversy

So, if true, Boston has been pretty indifferent to the wishes of the late Mrs. Cummings from the beginning.

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Indifference to wishes is a Boston hallmark.

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Although it probably isn't unique, it's what cities seem to require.

Quenching metro Boston's thirst made a wave of extraterritorial properties all the way out to where Enfield and Prescott were drowned to make the Quabbin.

There is a whole system of closer reservoirs that have been retired like the Cochituate or relegated to back up status like the Sudbury.

Wow, MBTA was a black hole back then too!

Glad to learn that public transit has had a long history of sucking up funds from other sources that the MBTA and state Legislature continue to honor! Now we have the state sales tax, motor vehicle RMV fees, vehicle inspection fees, and general fund disbursements all flowing into the MBTA.

BTW, I was speaking with a Fulbright Scholar visiting from England about transportation. She says people here have nothing to complain about when it comes to public transit fees or gas taxes. She can't believe how cheap public transit and train fares are here or why people complain so much about them.

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dontchya wish AdamG could do investigative reporting...

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to find out why a first term councilor, a child really, barely a grown-up, in his very first significant act in office, moves to sell off public land?

dontchya wish you could review Zakim's wealthy campaign finances and see where it all came from - yeah, most of it came from his father's out of town friends and almost none of it from the hood, but dontchya wish you knew the truth about who those people are and what their connection is to this move?

or do you think the lad came up with this idea on his own?

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