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.
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
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.