Boston has long had a park champion in Thomas M. Menino, who worked as the city’s longest-serving mayor in his term of office from 1993 to 2014. His health declined over the past few years, and during one hospitalization at the city’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, he noticed an unused parcel of land between the facility and the adjacent Boston Harbor waterfront. When he learned it was city property, he quickly began making plans to convert it into a park.
Boston Parks and the Boston Redevelopment Authority soon enlisted the help of Landscape Structures Inc. (LSI); M.E. O’Brien & Sons; and Spurr, Weston and Sampson’s Design Studio to execute the creation of the park. Due to the site’s proximity to the hospital and a citywide commitment to going beyond minimum ADA requirements in its public spaces, park officials stressed the importance of accessibility throughout, and the design team gladly accepted the challenge.
When the park opened in fall 2013, excited kids found a number of traditional play elements coupled with innovative design concepts by LSI, and patients at the hospital also found plenty of therapeutic equipment they could use in their rehabilitation. Ramps and transfer stations open up play structures for kids of all mobility levels, and even swings and whirls there can accommodate wheelchairs. The park also features a number of sensory elements, such as LSI’s Roller Table, which were specifically included to appeal to kids on the autism spectrum. The park’s color palette was also created to pop but not visually overload individuals sensitive to louder hues. Many victims of the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings were still rehabilitating at Spaulding when the park opened, and its outdoor elements provided them with a wider variety of therapeutic equipment as well as restorative fresh air and green space.
The park’s name, Mayor Thomas M. Menino Park, was a surprise to its visionary when it opened, and following his death a year later, it remains a lasting tribute to the city’s enduring park champion. For more on the late Mayor Menino, read the March 2013 Parks & Recreation article, "Meet the Mayor: Thomas M. Menino."
Danielle Taylor is the Executive Editor of Parks & Recreation magazine.