Wollaston Hill Neighborhood Association Meeting

On March 14th meeting the Wollaston Hill Neighborhood Association held its quarterly meeting at the Wollaston Elementary School to review their 2016 event calendar, elect new officers, hear a legislative update from State Senator John Keenan, and a local Ward 3 update from newly elected Ward 3 Council member Ian Cain.

The meeting opened with a presentation of the 2016 event calendar, featuring a number of civic and social events.  

  • Saturday May 7th, 9am to 11am the association will participate in the Cleaner Greener Quincy Day run by the City of Quincy, sponsoring both Safford Park at 166 Beale St and Forbes Hill Park near the Furnace Brook Golf Club.

  • Saturday June 18th 1pm to 5pm the association, partnering with Ward 3 City Councilor Ian Cain and Discovery Quincy, will be starting PorchFest Quincy, a free neighborhood music festival open to the public.  Come hear music of all styles walking the neighborhood enjoying a summer day meeting and friends.  Find out more or get involved, visit www.PorchFestQuincy.org.

  • Sunday July 10th, noon - 3pm join your neighbors for a potluck cookout with music and activities for the family.

  • Friday August 19th, 7pm - 9pm the association will host a free Family Movie Night at Safford Park.  Movie move will be announced soon.  Bring some lawn-chairs and join us for this back-to-school event!

  • Please visit the website for details on these and other events - www.WollastonHill.com

The association voted in Bryan Enos as Treasurer for the association.  The association is very happy to have Mr. Enos onboard to help out.  Mr. Enos has a long standing history of community contribution through the Wollaston Elementary School PTO and the Boy Scouts of America.

State Senator John Keenan provided a legislative update on a number of topics, including the state budget, the process for which is in full swing.  The budget process and timeline was explained, and Senator Keenan outlined a few topics at hand, including the cap on Charter Schools, state college funding, mental health, substance abuse, and legislation pertaining to Uber & taxi cabs.  Senator Keenan also addressed a topic of discussion from previous association meeting pertaining the perceived need for a housing court resource for Norfolk County.  This housing count resource would help manage more specialized housing related legal issues currently handled in the general court.  For more information about these topics please contact Senator Keenan’s office at http://www.senatorjohnkeenan.com.

Ward 3 City Councilor Ian Cain addressed the association for the first time as City Councilor, where he explained the function and process of his role in on the City council.  Councilor Cain also identified a number of topics before the city council such as FEMA maps, pedestrian safety, Quincy Hospital, and others.  Councilor Cain also described the council role in the permitting process, identifying both a proposed new hotel at the former site of Work, Inc. and a proposed multi-unit building on 151 Granite St.  The next Quincy City Council meeting is on March 21st, 2016.  For more information about these topics please contact Councilor Ian Cain at www.iancain.org.

Safford Park Community Preservation Act Project

Safford Park view from Winthrop Avenue, facing west.

In 2013 the Wollaston Hill Neighborhood Association (WHNA) submitted an application for Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding for the preservation of a neighborhood park known as Safford Park.  The association was awarded funding to preserve the passive nature of the park, and provide for improvements that enhance its use by the community for leisure, activities, and community assembly.  With strong community input, a plan evolved and the park was renovated over the course of a two year project and was reopened to the community in the summer of 2015.

Wollaston Elementary School at what is now Safford Park.

Safford Park (49,236 SF) is owned and maintained by the City of Quincy, located at 166 Beale St, between Winthrop and Lincoln Avenues, gifted to the City by Nathaniel F. Safford.  Located in the Wollaston Hill and Forbes Hill Neighborhoods, collectively known as Wollaston Heights, from 1873 to 1913 Safford Park served as the location of the Wollaston Elementary School until the present school replaced it diagonally across the street.

On January 7th, 2013 the association submitted their proposal to the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) requesting $177,000 for a full park renovation and the construction of a presentation venue, initially contemplated as a gazebo for performance and presentations.  

The goals of the proposal were as follows:

  • Restoration of this neighborhood park for use in community assembly: entertainment (i.e. Arts in the Park), music performance, and leisure activities.

  • Improvement of park for use in ceremonies and decorative lighting, such as the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting started by then Councilor Kevin Coughlin in the early years of his tenure as City Councilor.

  • Address safety and accessibility issues resulting from broken/missing stairs and railings. 

  • Additional plantings plantings/shrubs to enhance its use

  • Preserve the simplistic beauty and open-space look and feel.

On March 14th, 2013 Walter Hubley, then Vice President of the WHNA, presented the CPA proposal to the Community Preservation Committee.  The proposal was well received by the Community Preservation Committee and a recommendation for funding of $143,000 was put forth to Mayor Thomas Koch and the City Council for approval of the park renovation, less the cost of the presentation venue.  Funding was approved on June 3rd, 2013 for the project and funds to be managed by the Quincy Parks and Forestry Department, in coordination with the Wollaston Hill Neighborhood Association.  The Wollaston Hill Neighborhood Association, jointly with the Quincy Parks Department, worked closely with Skinner Overlook Landscape & Design to design a plan for this park preservation work.  With strong community input from neighbors, landscape architect Andrew McGee evolved a plan to preserve the passive nature of the park, enhance its present day use, and highlight its existing qualities.  

Neighborhood association meeting, reviewing the park plans.

The design process involved on-site observation of the park and its present use by the neighborhood.  Special attention was paid to ensure the new design would accommodate how the park was already used by the community, while working to accomplish the goals of the project.  The design process also includes a number of plan iterations and opportunities for neighbors to provide input into the plans, and express any concerns. 

On June 13, 2013 Walter Hubley of the WHNA and then Ward 3 Quincy City Council member Kevin Coughlin met with the Wollaston Garden Club to present preliminary plans for the park to seek the club’s input and potential participation on the project.  The club provided some preliminary input to the project and were excited about potentially participating with entrance way plantings at the park, pending final design and site study.  The club also presented Mr. Hubley with a scrapbook they had found in their club records containing photos and clippings from a project the club had worked on with the city on a 1962-64 beautification project their members had worked on at Safford Park with the City.

1963 Scapbook from the Wollaston Garden Club project at Safford Park.

Throughout late 2013 and early 2014 preparations began for the Safford Park Preservation Project, starting with the clearing of some diseased trees and invasive species.  Sandblasting and repointing of the granite retaining wall was performed.  

Grading of the entire park land surface was performed to help with erosion, water pooling issues, and to create a better surface for the occasional soccer practice or football game by neighborhood children.  A large granite and cement monument platform in the center of the park, formerly home to a World War I monument featuring a Howitzer Cannon, was removed to further open up the center of the park for open space.   Removed for metal during World War II, the Howitzer was never replaced, leaving an empty platform for many years.

Clara Yeomans tree planed by then Councilor Kevin Coughlin in memory of Clara's years of service to her community. (~8 years prior to the CPA project)

The old broken and weathered stairs and walkways were replaced.  A stone structure at the upper landing of the bottom stairs was constructed to provide for a stage for presentation use at the park.  Installation of electrical facilities to illuminate the granite retaining wall, christmas lights on Clara’s’ tree - planted by former Councilor Kevin Coughlin in memory of Clara Yoemans, a long-time neighbor and community activist.  The electrical facilities also power electrical outlets to provide power for a number of applications at the park, including PA systems for music and performance.  Shrubs were planted atop the granite retaining wall and along bordering properties, to include Mountain Laurel and Winter Berry.  The entire surface of the park was seeded for new grass in the fall of 2014.  Five beautiful new trees were planted to provide a blend of seasonal colors and a next generation of shade cover for future generations.  New trees include Red Maple, American Elm “Valley Forge,” and Bi-color Oak.

Four beautiful rustic stone-faced granite benches were donate by long-time neighbors George and Sandra Burke, Councilor Kevin Coughlin and Family, the Hubley Family, and the Meade Family.  Two of the granite benches were placed on the stair landing, to provide for seating overlooking the park, and two of the benches were placed in shady areas along the two paths.  

The Wollaston Garden Club took on the important task of beautifying the North West corner of the park over the course of 2015.  Civic Beautification Chairs Jo Costello, Ann Foresman and Kathleen Ceurvels lead the effort at Safford Park, and members Carol Fischer, Ruth Griffin, and others from the club assisting.  After a study of the area and design work, the club repurposed some unused granite blocks to frame in a multi seasonal garden area at the corner of the park.  The Park and Forestry Department leveled the location, placed the granite blocks in place, and delivered the compost to the location at the location and the Wollaston Garden Club began their work.  Pink Knockout Ross line the back row, and ground cover was planted in the front corner.  Grasses will be planed in the middle in the spring of 2016 as the cold weather subsides.  Water facilities were installed for garden irrigation.

Safford Park was reopened on August 31st, 2015 with a ribbon cutting ceremony and a family movie night at the park.  Neighbors attended to celebrate the park’s reopening to the neighborhood.  Mayor Thomas Koch praised the project as a community effort, including members of the Wollaston Hill Neighborhood Association and the City’s Park and Forestry Department, with contributions from the Wollaston Garden Club.

Black Swallow-Wort Pods

By Pat Artis, Wollaston Garden Club

Throughout the years, members of the Wollaston Garden Club and other city gardeners have been in a private war to eliminate invasive plants from their gardens. These plants threaten bird and butterfly populations and other native plant communities, and cost city governments millions of dollars in plant loss and for removal. This summer, along with the usual suspects like Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Knotweed, and Garlic Mustard, local gardeners are dealing with a bumper crop of Black Swallow-wort.  

Black Swallow-wort (Cynanchum nigrum), also called “the dog strangling vine” can be found in well-maintained gardens, climbing chain-link fences, or mounding over border vegetation in all parts of Quincy. It is really difficult to weed out completely because its white, fleshing tentacles break off easily, but leave an extensive root system untouched. 

The Object of the club shall be to promote and encourage the love of gardening and the study of horticulture, floral and landscape design: To aid in the protection and conservation of our environment and to continue civic beautification in the City of Quincy. - Wollaston Garden Club Mission

However, by extremely persistent weeding, and digging out the root rhizome, the gardener can eventually be successful. Gardeners should wear gloves when pulling pods or digging up weeds to avoid potential skin irritation. Black swallow-wort weeds should not be thrown into a compost pile or put into yard-waste bags or barrels, but placed in tied plastic bags and put in the trash for incineration; their stoloniferous roots will re-sprout and seeds will not be destroyed in the composting process. Citizens are reminded to compost all other yard waste in the regular yard waste collections. For more information about black swallow-wort go to http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/cyclo1.htm.

According to Quincy resident, Kathy Wagner, who gave out information about the invasive at the main branch of the Thomas Crane Library on August 24th; “Many local gardeners have no idea what they are dealing with when they first find it in their gardens; its shiny green leaves come in pairs and it even sports a small purple star-shaped flower in July. Over a few seasons they discover it has taken over the garden, quickly winding around fences and shrubs, strangling out other plant species and eventually displacing them permanently. At this time of year it has green pods, green-bean like in appearance; the pods are beginning to open now and the winds will soon release from each pod hundreds of seeds, beginning a whole new generation of plants.” 

Citizens should remove the green seed pods now, before they turn brown, preventing the next generation from sprouting. The City of Cambridge has organized neighborhood “Pod Patrols” to rid their community of this invasive weed, with the slogan “Spread the Word…Not the Weed,” Diane Hill, Youth Chair of the Wollaston Garden Club recently led some Lincoln-Hancock students on a “pod patrol” to collect pods from along a fence in their school yard. Some enterprising Horticulture students from Quincy High School, like Alan Tran, at atranreveolver@gmail.com have been working, for a fee, as gardener’s helpers, removing the pervasive “dog-strangler” weeds from private gardens. Tran says to really get rid of the invasive plant “you have to dig deep, remove the primary root, and keep weeding until it’s gone.”

Pat Artis is a past president of Wollaston Garden Club, trained in identification of MA Invasive Species, and a Gardening Consultant of the National Garden Clubs, Inc.  This article originally appeared in the Quincy Sun.

Councilor Coughlin's Final Christmas Tree Lighting

Several hundred neighbors gathered at the newly renovated Safford Park to join Councilor Kevin Coughlin in his final Christmas Tree Lighting, a tradition he stared several years ago.  

The event started off with Quincy Public School Choir singers leading the crown in song - a selection of Christmas carols.

A visit from Santa Clause arriving on Engine 4 from the Wollaston fire station, welcomed by a crowd of excited children.  Santa greeted the children, passing out candy canes, then making his way to the podium where he ceremoniously illuminate Clara Yeomans's tree for the Christmas season.

After the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, the crowd joined together at the Wollaston Elementary School for hot chocolate and cookies.  Joining neighbors at the event were Mayor Thomas Koch, Representative Tackey Chan, and School Committee Vice Chair Kathryn Hubley. 

A wonderful tradition supported by Councilor Coughlin, Mayor Koch, Quincy Fire Department, Quincy Police Department, Quincy Parks Department, the Wollaston PTO, and the Wollaston Hill Neighborhood Association.

Fall 2014 Meeting Highlights

State Senator John Keenan was the guest at our Fall Neighborhood Association Meeting.  Senator Keenan was asked to address the association’s interests in a housing court resource for the Quincy area.  A housing court resource is believed to be important in addressing issues in the neighborhood.

Housing Court Access for Quincy

There are 5 divisions of this specialized court, a total of 20 locations managed by 10 justices.  The Housing Court does not have statewide jurisdiction.  In areas that do not have a dedicated Housing Court, these matters are processed through the District Court.

By way of comparison, the Housing Court’s 5 divisions processed over 27,000 eviction cases in fiscal year 2013 – while Quincy District Court processed about 1,400 of the same type.

Quincy District does have some special resources to assist in the types of cases that might be handled by a Housing Court, for instance the Greater Boston Legal Services runs a pilot program that provides full representation to qualifying cases.

There have been efforts to expand the jurisdiction and access to Housing Court.  In last year’s budget debate, the Senate considered such an amendment by Senator Brownsberger, which would have granted statewide jurisdiction.  

Court officials have been very supportive and forward-looking in establishing specialized courts, for example Housing Court, Drug Court, Veterans’ Court.  A proposal was put forward to expand the Housing Court currently located in Brockton, and allow that expanded Court to receive cases from Quincy.  The cost was estimated at about $2.5-million annually.

Senator Keenan told the association that he will work with his colleagues in the senate to establish housing court resource for the Quincy area, but acknowledged this need will be balanced among other specialize court priorities and will not be an easy task.

Senator Keenan, as he has done in the past, also addressed a number of legislative issues before the senate in this past year.  

Transportation Finance

The Legislature passed a major Transportation Finance package that brings new investment to an aging infrastructure.  Quincy is among the cities that benefits most from our transportation assets – with 4 Red Line stops, Commuter Rail, bus lines, major throughways, and several critical bridges that need repair.  Investment in transportation is an investment in the city’s economy.

Why do we need this? The train cars we ride are 40 years old, Quincy Center garage has been closed for over 2 years, Wollaston Station still has no disabled access, and some of our stations are prone to flooding in the rain.  Our facilities very clearly need this investment.  It affects business, and it affects the middle class as they rely on these for their daily commute.

District Project Authorizations

A full list of Quincy projects that are now authorized were discussed at the meeting.  Some highlights include investment in seawall repair and dredging, and redevelopment of Quincy Center station.

Projects that require capital investment on a long-term basis are very unlikely to happen without a pre-approved authorization, so this list is not a guarantee but it is very important.

Having a project on this list is the first step, which allows us to continue talks with the administration to secure the bonds and the funding.

Domestic Violence Bill

The Legislature passed reforms for the rights and safety of Domestic Violence victims.  Three particular provisions of the bill are most important:

A new crime was created for the act of strangulation.  This is a violent act that correlates highly with domestic violence, with the intent to kill, and that has a very distinct psychological effect on victims.  Previously it could only be charged as assault and battery, without reflecting the unique nature of the crime.

Domestic violence victims, upon providing reasonable documentation, will now be guaranteed up to 15 days of paid or unpaid leave from their employment.  The purpose of this is to provide job stability while allowing victims enough time to seek counseling, and to arrange their legal matters.  

The law also eliminates some common out of court settlements, when domestic violence is involved.  This will help prevent abusive or intimidating terms, which allow offenders to effectually make a case disappear without any enduring legal protection for the victims.

Contact State Senator John Keenan