Demolition Gets Underway on Esplanade’s Lee Pool Complex

From left to right: DCR Commissioner Leo Roy; State Rep. Livingstone; Mike Nichols, executive director of the Esplanade Association; Alexi Conine, EA board chair; Lucy Salwen, special projects and community assistant for the Charles River Conservancy; Lauren Hoops-Schmeig, executive director of Hill House; and Charlie Zechel, executive director of Community Boating, Inc.

Last Friday, Jan. 18, marked a major step forward for the Charles River Esplanade when the Department Conservation and Recreation began demolition on the long-neglected Lee Pool complex.

“It was a said moment when the pool closed in the ‘90s because it was determined to be irreparable…but we’re pushing ahead with a new beginning for the site,” said DCR Commissioner Leo Roy during the demolition event for the pool.

Nearly two years ago, DCR launched a process to revitalize the complex that included input from the Esplanade Association, Hill House, the Charles River Conservancy, Community Boating Inc. and other stakeholders. Maryann Thompson Architects of Watertown was contracted to survey the project site and create a final schematic design at that time.

“There was a strong consensus that the complex couldn’t be saved and needed to be removed,” Roy said, adding that the demolition was the first phase of the project, and that DCR is currently working on the next phase.

The pool, which opened in 1951, was named for Joseph Lee, a late Boston resident who was called the “father of the American playground.”  Soon after the first U.S. playground opened in San Francisco in 1887, Lee adopted the concept to open Boston’s first playground on Columbus Avenue “with the idea that there should be more safe places for children to play,” Roy said, adding that Lee’s “legacy also carries on in the 70 other playgrounds that DCR operates around the Commonwealth.”

Michael Nichols, executive director of the Esplanade Association, said Friday was a “very important day for the Esplanade itself,” adding that for the last 25 years, the complex has served as the operation center for the nonprofit, as well as DCR.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone, who has been closely involved with the Lee Pool revitalization process since its inception, said the complex “shouldn’t be a maintenance dump on the Esplanade.”

Livingstone said, “I’m excited that the demolition is staring, and even more excited for the step that comes next.”

Meanwhile, Roy told this reporter that the project will create more green space and open space on the Esplanade, and that whatever comes next would leave a smaller footprint on the park.

“We’re still working on the initial plans,” Roy said. “We dreamed big, but now we have to scale it back to what’s in the realm of possibility, and that’s what we’ll be doing.”

On a related note, the parking lot at the complex will be closed until further notice because of the ongoing demolition. Vehicle parking alternatives in close proximity to the complex include the DCR’s Esplanade Car Parks located at 234 Charles St. and 36 Cambridge St.

Beacon Hill Civic Association Community Corner

Let’s be neighborly!

The Beacon Hill Civic Association’s Streets & Sidewalks Committee is constantly looking for a solution to the challenging dog waste problem on Beacon Hill. A sub-committee has recently been formed to tackle this issue, and we hope to arrive at answers that can lead to action.

Too often neighbors are finding bags of dog waste hidden (or not so hidden) on their front steps. Dog waste bags thrown on the sidewalk or street are unsanitary and can lead to falls, and in tree pits are damaging to our trees.

All dog owners should be responsible and bag their dog’s waste and dispose of it properly. We all know that there is a lack of trash barrels on some parts of the Hill, but while we work on getting additional barrels, dog owners should dispose of these bags in a proper receptacle. Your neighbors will appreciate it!

Dr. Jim O’Connell

About sixty BHCA members and neighbors attended Dr. Jim O’Connell’s talk, Health Care in the Streets – Lessons from Three Decades of Caring for Boston’s Rough Sleepers, at the BHCA last Thursday night.

Dr. Jim’s passion for his mission was evident in his talk and in the pictures he shared of his work through the years. The Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program, founded by Dr. O’Connell in 1985, provides compassionate and dignified healthcare to Boston’s homeless men, women and children both on the streets and in his clinic at MGH. His book entitled “Stories from the Shadows – Reflections of a Street Doctor”, written during those years of caring for homeless persons in Boston, gently illuminates the humanity and raw courage of those who struggle to survive and find meaning and hope while living on the streets. It was a thoughtful and enlightening evening for all.

If you would like to learn more about the BHCHP and how you can help or volunteer, please contact Ms. Sara Pacelle, Associate Director of Development at [email protected]

Upcoming BHCA Meetings

No meetings the week of January 28th.

Other upcoming BHCA Events

47th Annual Beacon Hill Gala – Saturday, February 9th at the Omni Parker House

Oscar Night – Sunday, February 24th at Hampshire House

Visit the Beacon Hill Civic Association website www.bhcivic.org or call the office (617-227-1922) for more information on any of these events.

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