Millenium Park

Mayari Velasquez, of Boston, on a swing at Millenium Park.
(Globe Staff Photo / Chitose Suzuki)

From trash to treasure

Former city dump now brims with views, recreation

By Suzanne C. Ryan, Globe Staff, 7/28/2001

EST ROXBURY - Junk has transformed into beauty. That's what has visitors marveling at Millennium Park, a new 100-acre recreation site here. Not that long ago, this land was a city dump.

It was closed in 1985, and then dirt from the Big Dig was dropped on top of it. Landscaping was done, playgrounds installed, and pathways created.

The result is the largest new municipal park in Boston since Franklin Park (527 acres) opened in 1883. Millennium Park is larger than the 72 acres of Boston Common and the Public Garden combined.

Millennium, which the city opened in November, features three playgrounds, 10 to 15 soccer fields, 6 miles of jogging and bicycling paths, open grassy areas, picnic tables, and a canoe launch onto the Charles River.

There are 350 free parking spots. And a vista that, at 1,700 feet above sea level, provides a 360-degree view of the Boston area - from the Blue Hills in Milton to the Prudential Tower downtown to City Hall in Newton.

''You can really see for miles and miles,'' says West Roxbury's Ed Spits, who is here with his sister-in-law Caroline Spits and 7-month-old nephew Brandon. ''Look,'' he says, pointing west and then south. ''You can see Route 128, the Needham commuter rail, and the Blue Hills over there. It's so nice up here.''

The city capped the land three years ago and installed 58 gas extraction wells to control built-up methane gas. It then dumped 450,000 cubic yards of construction soil from the Big Dig.

Mary Sylvester, of West Roxbury, visits the playgrounds every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday when she's babysitting her 2-year-old grandson Matthew Braley. ''It bothers me a little that this used to be a dump. I wouldn't want to stay up here all the time,'' she says. But Sylvester is pleased that the city used recycled plastic to create the park's benches, swings, and picnic tables. ''There are no splinters to worry about,'' she says as she rubs a smooth green bench. ''And the play areas don't get too hot.''

Mary Hines, a spokeswoman for the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, says the city plans to officially open the park's soccer fields in the fall after the grass has had a chance to grow. Soccer goals will be rotated so the grass won't wear down.

Corey Sloane, however, has already tried out one of the fields. On a recent breezy Wednesday, the 12-year-old Roslindale boy is here playing football and soccer with a group of friends on a day trip from the Hyde Park Community Center. The consensus? ''The park is cool,'' says Sloane. ''There's so much space here. I hope we come back.''

Samantha Marder, of Dedham, likes to spend time at the canoe launch. She comes to the park every other day with her dogs, Toto and Zane, who run in and out of the Charles River while she watches the sunset.

''This is not just another park,'' Marder says. ''It's vast. It's quiet. You don't feel like you're in the city. You could be anywhere. It's a real gift to Boston.''

To get to Millennium Park, take VFW Parkway past West Roxbury High School. Just after Home Depot, turn right at Charles Park Road, which turns into Gardner Street. Drive up the hill to the park entrance. The park is open from dawn to dusk.