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Ordway Park Neighbors Meet

On October 23, 2003, a group of some 20 neighbors of Ordway Park and ten members of the Conservators Board of Directors met at the home of Joan and David Rosenberg on Montvale Road to discuss the renewal of Ordway Park. A range of opinions about the future of the Park were voiced and most of those in attendance left their e-mail addresses and asked to be kept informed.

As everyone introduced himself or herself, there were many different expressions of gratitude that this woodland has been preserved as open space. A couple of people had known Priscilla Ordway; one recalled her preference for keeping what is now the area of the park a simple woodland. Others shared more recent impressions of the Park, when they were growing up or bringing their children to it. Their comments were warm and positive. Newcomers in the area said they saw the park as a special resource.

Three members of the Ordway Park committee made preliminary remarks. In answer to a query about Priscilla Ordway's will, Jim Broderick explained that the 1969 will had left "all my Newton Centre real estate," i.e. the house and all the land, to the Conservators, together with $20,000 for the "said purposes" of the Conservators. A 1970 codicil, however, directed that the house and the hilltop property be sold, apparently because Miss Ordway otherwise would not have had funds for a bequest to Smith College that she had planned. But the remaining "vacant land" had never been laid out as a separate park area; for instance, the entrance to the park was from the hilltop, as indicated by remnants of stairs and winding paths. The more interesting plantings, too, were closer to the hilltop.

Corry Berkooz provided a brief summary of her professional evaluation of existing conditions in the park and of her suggestions about goals and design ideas for a renewal. She noted the absence of any buffer zone along Everett Street and Grant Avenue that could define the park, and advised that a final plan could supply native shrubs toward the perimeter. She suggested aiming in general for a woodland effect, clarifying the entrances along Grant Avenue and improving signage and maintenance. She saw a need for the introduction of native shrubs and groundcover to create seasonal interest.

Frank Howard reported on his month-long series of visits to the park at various times of day last May. He encountered few neighbors, most of them using the park as a cut-through. What struck him forcefully was the continuous traffic along Grant Avenue, and he ruefully concluded that a large part of the impact of the park will be on passing motorists. Nonetheless he emphasized his deep personal appreciation of the springtime beauty and variety in the park.

One close abutter of the park raised an early objection to "renewal." She feared benches and "civilization" that would bring litter. She welcomed thickets and weeds. It seemed she would agree with G.M.Hopkins' cry against human intrusion:

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left.
Oh, let them be left, wildness and wet:
Long live the weeds and the wildness yet.

Most speakers, however, agreed only to the extent of rejecting what several called a "Brookline park," that is, with paving, flower beds, formal patterns of shrubs, etc. The consensus was clearly for what was called a "natural" park, more like the Olmsted parks or the Framingham Garden in the Woods, whose designs are unobtrusive.

How such a "natural" park could be achieved and maintained generated a lot of discussion. Corry Berkooz and Beth Schroeder listed a number of native shrubs and small trees that could add seasonal interest to a woodland garden. Even though Ordway Park has no source of water on site, they said that spot watering would be required only in the first year for native plants, and Frank Howard cited the success of his planting of an American Chestnut now 15 feet tall in its third year. Because of the hardiness of native species, they have the best chance of blocking invasive non-native species, and maintenance efforts should decline as the native plants establish themselves.

One questioner asked whether the Conservators would supplement the maintenance income from the Ordway Park Fund. A number of Directors present made it clear that the Board of Directors intended to continue to provide maintenance money as needed. They emphasized that the Board welcomed the Ordway Park Fund as an additional resource for Ordway Park, not as a substitute for its responsibilities there.

Reflecting on the evening's discussion, members of the Conservators Committee on Ordway Park were heartened by the neighbors' lively interest in the park. The next step toward renewal of Ordway Park is to develop a set of preliminary layout and planting plans and to bring them back to neighbors for their comments.

Jim Broderick


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