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Southwest Corridor Park Conservancy

Restoring, Maintaining and Enhancing the Southwest Corridor Park

Southwest Corridor 20th Anniversary

Message Celebrating the 20th Anniversary
Read the Secretary of MassDOT's message about the SWC 20th anniversary at http://transportation.blog.state.ma.us/blog/2010/05/secretarys-message-celebrating-southwest-corridor.html.

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Boston Globe Editorial: A park that is the muscle and bone of the city.

Southwest Corridor Park Origins and Upkeep

Do you know how the 4.7-mile long Southwest Corridor Park came to be?

A 12-lane highway was planned to go through our neighborhoods in the late 1960s. Highway I-95 was going to slice through Jamaica Plain, Lower Roxbury, and the South End on its way to downtown Boston. Bulldozers tore down houses and pushed bricks into giant piles. People were unhappy, but officials said it couldn't be stopped. They were wrong!

Neighbors gathered and protested for years up and down the proposed route, finally stopping the highway project in 1972. A dirt corridor stretched for almost five miles by the time they stopped the bulldozers.

collage of images of the Southwest Corridor
Years of community meetings and planning followed. Eventually, Massachusetts was the first state in the nation, to receive highway funds to build public transportation. The result: the Orange Line from Jamaica Plain to Downtown Crossing, with a park alongside stretching from the Arborway to Dartmouth Street. In 1979, construction began, and people celebrated, beginning an annual tradition known as Spontaneous Celebrations' "Wake Up the Earth Festival and Parade"(WUTE)!

Three major events marked the opening of the Southwest Corridor Park: the start of the Orange Line in 1987; the end of major construction in 1989; and finally, the opening of the new state park on May 5, 1990. At that opening, Gov. Dukakis called the Park, "another brilliant jewel in Olmsted's Emerald Necklace," because the Park joins that system at Franklin Park.

That was 20 years ago. The state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and other friends of the Park are celebrating its anniversary this year, starting at WUTE on May 1st!

When it became a state park, the legislature gave "official standing" to a corridor citizen's group called the Parkland Management Advisory Committee (PMAC). PMAC meets with state and city officials on the first Wednesday evening of each month with state and city officials about taking care of the Southwest Corridor Park (find meeting dates and locations at http://swcpc.org/pmac.htm).

Responsibilities for park management have been complicated because the Park crosses so many jurisdictions: Boston and the MBTA have some duties, but the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the state police has taken care of most parkland issues.

However, as the park aged and needed more care, the DCR budget for upkeep steadily declined. For example, 13 park employees were permanently assigned to the corridor in 1990, but their ranks shrank to 4 full-time employees by 2004 (today there are 3). Volunteers also donated time, but the park needed financial donations. PMAC's charter did not allow fund-raising, so a new group was formed in 2004 that could raise money, the Southwest Corridor Park Conservancy (SWCPC).

The mission of the SWCPC is to help "restore, maintain, and enhance" the park. It has actively promoted the 20th anniversary celebration, meeting with groups up and down the corridor over the past year. For information about events throughout the park this Spring, Summer, and Fall, and about how to get involved, please visit the website at www.SWCPC.org.

This Park exists because of the grass-roots work of citizens to create a better city. Last year, there were over 100 neighbors, joggers, bikers, walkers (with and without dogs), commuters, students, and gardeners, who regularly volunteered their time to make it a better park!

That's a short version of the historic saga of how the Southwest Corridor came to be the park we know and love today. Please join us for the festivities: celebrate our anniversary and recommit to applying lessons learned to our current and future civic planning!