Moakley Park, a 60-acre community park in South Boston, floods regularly—even minimal rain events cause the playing fields to become unusable and unsafe. Coupled with the fact that this, Boston’s largest waterfront park, sits at a critical breach point for South Boston and with a projected 21-36” in sea level rise, the park becomes a major flood pathway inundating adjacent neighborhoods including two low income housing developments. With this reality in mind, City of Boston Parks and Recreation Department and the Environment Department commissioned a vision plan for the park that would not only address critical climate resiliency issues, but would turn Moakley Park into an exemplary 21st century open space with a focus on equity, diversity, community and of course enviable recreational amenities.
The vision plan addresses three key goals. Firstly, it includes smart resiliency methods that protect the park, the neighborhood, and the city from climate change and sea level rise. These methods include a flood protection berm and raised landscapes that protect the community and provide recreational opportunities, large underground chambers beneath the recreational fields that provide almost 5,000,000 cubic feet of subsurface storage for stormwater management, offshore breakwater and living shoreline wetlands that attenuate wave action and seed new habitat as well as massive tree planting to counter the urban heat island effect.
Secondly, the plan modernizes existing athletic facilities, layering in new programs and flexibility to attract and diversify visitors, all while adding robust planting to make the park more ecologically varied. The upgraded sports facilities create premiere fields through improved field layout, lighting and integrated stormwater management while also offering harbor views. The fields and sport courts are organized into the following primary areas: softball and little league fields, baseball field, track and field, sport court complex and soccer and multi-use fields. Embedded in these areas are numerous additional opportunities for active play including an adventure playground, sledding hill, BBQ area, flexible fields, water play area, field houses with community space, and a waterfront cafe offering a premiere location for events or just relaxing with refreshments after a game.
Lastly, the plan considers how to create equitable access to Boston’s harbor and build a diverse and active community. By increasing the linkages and relocating access points into the park to key intersections, the plan serves to improve accessibility and connectivity. The central-most point of access connects directly to the adjacent low income housing development and brings visitors to the harbor through a long sloping ramp, at the top of which visitors enjoy an expansive view of the harbor and the islands. In later phases of the plan, Day Boulevard which currently acts as a barrier to the beach, can be shut down to traffic and transformed into a waterfront promenade.
Boston Parks & Rec
Accessible to a wide range of Boston’s population, the park is served by two train line stops and boasts highway access for visitors from across Boston and the region. With this in mind, the design team conducted in-depth analysis to understand site opportunities and constraints through site visits, local planning documents, flood maps, ownership, existing vegetation surveys, and recreation analysis. In addition, community engagement was of paramount importance throughout the duration of the project including a series of open houses and on-site events.