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Malcolm X Park upgrades nearing completion

Banner Staff
Malcolm X Park upgrades nearing completion
Children playing at newly renovated Malcolm X Park. PHOTO: MIKE MEJIA

The city has completed most of a $9.6 million renovation to Malcolm X Park in Roxbury, a project that had generated some controversy over removing mature trees to make the area more accessible to people in wheelchairs.

The renovations were also designed to enhance recreation for children of all ages, increase lighting, improve courts, and add art and educational spaces. The city has promised to plant saplings to replace the mature trees, which helped moderate summer temperatures as the climate changes and intensifies urban heat islands.

The renovation was budgeted at $8.8 million for construction and $690,000 for design.

“To fully honor Malcolm X’s legacy, we must honor his commitment to inclusion, equity and accessibility as we maintain his namesake park,” Mayor Michelle Wu said at an Oct. 18 ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I’m grateful to the Roxbury community, whose valuable feedback guided us in updating the park in ways that best serve our residents.”

Rodnell Collins, Malcolm X’s nephew and president of the Malcolm X–Ella L. Little-Collins Family Foundation, joined Wu, Friends and Stewards of Malcolm X Park, youth sports teams and Parks and Recreation Department officials at the ceremony.

“There is a quote of my uncle’s that is very special to me: ‘Education is key, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today,’” Collins said. “With its new design, restoration and construction, Malcolm X Park will continue to educate, inspire and invigorate the community.”

Collins added: “My family was always passionate about nature and the outdoors, and I especially want to thank the women who have rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to help, whether it’s been with education or cleaning up the park going back to my mother Ella, Malcolm X’s sister.”

Situated on 15 acres along Martin Luther King Boulevard, what was formerly known as Washington Park is one of the largest recreational areas in Roxbury. Originally created in 1867 on the land called Honeysuckle Hill, the park offers a blend of passive and active areas. While the athletic fields, courts, the amphitheater and playground provide opportunities for recreation, passive areas offer a serene environment for relaxation, reflection and connection with nature.

Features available for children’s play include ones for children 2–5 years old and 5–12 years old. Seating has been added to hillside slope play areas.

The park’s four basketball and two tennis courts were reconstructed with new surfacing and LED lighting. The basketball courts retained the terraced layout so that children can start out at the lower ones and work their way up to the top court as they grow, and their skills develop.

The top court was enlarged to be regulation size, with additional seating and a scoreboard. The bottom court offers mathematics fun in a game called Fraction Ball for the youngest players to learn fractions while playing outside.

Pickleball striping was added to the tennis courts. There is also a seating area at tables that can be used to play chess or other games.

Based on requests made during community meetings, the athletic field was renovated for multi-use with natural grass seasonally lined for softball, soccer, kickball and disc golf. The renovations also include a walking loop around the field, a softball backstop, LED lighting and scoreboard, and accessibility. Exercise equipment, seating and gathering areas, and a barbecue plaza are also a part of the improvements.

“As a Roxbury native, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the recreation and respite that Malcolm X Park has brought to my family and community.” said Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space. “I am grateful to the community members who spent countless hours engaging in the redesign process to enhance the features of the park so that all residents can accessibly play, rest and fellowship in this park.”

Working with the city’s Disability Commission, the designers made all entrances to the park accessible and created an accessible path that connects Dale Street to Martin Luther King Boulevard. The components — field, walking loop, courts, playground, water play, barbecue area and new amphitheater space — have accessible routes from the entrances.

Each of the basketball and tennis courts features accessible entrances, and an accessible route has been created to the top of the hill, allowing visitors of all abilities to enjoy the natural beauty of the area and vistas.

Roxbury resident Omo Moses worked with the design team and contractor to create a Math Trail throughout the park. Moses is the founder of the company Math Talk, which brings math education to children through play.

Malcolm X Park was the pilot for the city’s new equitable procurement strategies. Bidders were required to meet specific goals for using women- and minority-owned subcontractors. Project contractor Fleming Brothers met both goals.

Yet to be completed is artwork honoring Malcolm X near the basketball courts and on the Shelbourne Center’s rear wall.

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