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City conveys urban wild to Paige Academy

India Glenn
City conveys urban wild to Paige Academy
Paige Academy will make improvements to the John Eliot Square Urban Wild with a $100,000 grant from the city. GOOGLE MAPS IMAGE

Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced on June 25 that the city of Boston had transferred ownership of the John Eliot Square Urban Wild to Paige Academy along with a $100,000 renovation grant from the city’s Grassroots open space program, an initiative that supports the creation and sustainment of community gardens and open spaces.

Prior to the transfer of land ownership, the Boston Conservation Commission had leased the urban wild to Paige Academy, an independent elementary school located next to the parcel of land. Though the lease began in 1999, the academy has tended to the urban wild since the school’s founding in 1975.

According to a June 25 press statement, the school plans to spend a portion of the $100,000 grant on improving an existing community pathway to the Roxbury Crossing MBTA Station and developing protective measures to avoid damage from storm water runoff.

Significant erosion from rainfall and the lack of protective infrastructure have caused the pathway connecting the community to Roxbury Crossing and local bus connections to become increasingly dangerous and difficult to travel.

“The proposed John Eliot Community Path would address a pressing need to provide safe access to Roxbury Crossing,” Paige Academy wrote in its proposal for the grant. “The existing ‘path’ descends steeply, approximately 20 feet in elevation and is severely eroded by storm water runoff from Lynwood Court.”

The city-approved proposal aims to improve the path by ensuring the pathway absorbs rainwater and by installing speed bumps to redirect water.

Dr. Angela Paige Cook, the executive director at Paige Academy, described the renovation’s expected impact upon the urban wild in a press statement.

“We are thrilled to receive this construction grant and land,” said Cook. “We have been care-taking the land for the past 50 years, watching the erosion take its toll on the landscape. Now we look forward to correcting the problem with the help of this grant.”

Another portion of the grant will go toward improving educational opportunities for Paige Academy’s students.

Paige Academy has always used the urban wild to educate its students about Native American culture, according to Cook. With the guidance of faculty, students have used the open space to practice “sister planting,” a gardening technique central to Native American agriculture. Faculty also have used a teepee in the urban wild to teach students about Native American songs and dances.

Although most of the grant will go toward building the rainwater-tolerant infrastructure system, Cook expressed her enthusiasm about the wider impact on Paige students in comments to the Banner.

“The bulk of the money is going to go toward stopping the erosion, which is a major problem,” she said. “But we will be doing some other things to make more opportunities to explore other learning experiences.”

Since the Grassroots program requires that grant recipients create public open spaces for the community, the remainder of the grant is reserved for the installation of community garden beds and the enhancement of the urban wild’s appearance.

The Department of Neighborhood Development, in conjunction with Paige Academy, started construction on the urban wild shortly after June 6. Construction is expected to continue until early 2020.

Walsh highlighted how the improvements to the urban wild would unify the community.

“The redevelopment of this urban wild will create a new gathering space that residents and visitors in Roxbury can be proud of and enjoy,” said Mayor Walsh in the press statement. “I want to thank all the partners involved for coming up with this plan that will breathe new life into this area and be a new, beautiful destination.”

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