Approximately 40 people attended a meeting at the Hawthorne Youth and Community Center in Roxbury Monday night for a presentation of a progress report concerning the Roxbury Heritage State Park project.
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Campbell Construction and Content Design Collaborative presented the updates on the project.
The Highland Park Neighborhood Coalition hosted the meeting in partnership with the John Eliot Square Neighborhood Association and the Roxbury Historical Society.
Marcia Butman, treasurer of the Roxbury Historical Society, a volunteer organization invested in the preservation of the park, said before the event that the community has been waiting for this project to come to fruition for many decades now.
“There’s been a lot of important history that’s really important to be preserved so that the people, not just in Roxbury, but everywhere can learn,” Butman said. “Roxbury Historical Society is really interested in having it be the best that it can be.”
DCR Commissioner Leo Roy said the goal of the DCR in working on the preservation and enhancement of the park is to establish a green space that benefits all visitors.
“Our mission at the DCR is to protect, conserve and enhance our commonwealth of natural, cultural and historic resources for the well-being of all,” Roy said.
The DCR has restored over 2,000 historic sites in Massachusetts, including some in Roxbury, Roy said.
“I don’t have to tell you how important Roxbury is,” Roy said. “I think you all know … this has been a landmark of human settlement for thousands of years.”
Roy said the department aims to include the public in the process and, from this feedback, create an area all members of the community will be satisfied with.
“We see [the park] as a gathering place and an interpreting place,” Roy said. “We also recognize the importance of that piece of green in the middle of the city and celebrating not only the agriculture that happened there.”
The community has raised $4 million to be invested into this project, Roy said.
Steve Athanas, a business manager of Campbell Construction, provided an update on the construction aspect of the project thus far. In addition, he also asked residents to consider giving permission to the builders to do work on Saturdays.
“All of our project work is public based, whether it be federal or state local and our focus is on historic restoration,” Athanas said.
Athanas said Campbell Construction boasts a workforce nearly 40 percent higher in minorities than the state requirement of 10.4 percent for this project.
“Our workforce itself on this particular project is 50 percent minority on the job,” Athanas said. “We also have hired a subcontractor, Hurst Landscape and Site Services Inc. right around Mattapan, to do over 20 percent of the project and they’re taking care of most of the outside work.”
Athanas said he expects for construction to be completed by next fall.
Several locals who attended the meeting said they were optimistic about the project, but expressed some concerns.
Anne McKinnon, 55, of Jamaica Plain, for instance, said the efforts of the DCR have been less than satisfactory.
“It’s been 30 years since they’ve talked about this and nothing has happened,” McKinnon said. “This was the first part of the heritage park that was supposed to be a major effort in Roxbury including parts of Dudley Square and there’s been zero.”
Jonathan Correia, 32, of Roxbury, said while he hasn’t been heavily involved, he enjoys seeing how hard his neighbors have fought for this project.
“I’ve seen that there was some meetings in the past but I knew that [the project] had lapsed and so there was no accountability,” Correia said. “Something wasn’t going … well so it was good to connect the dots, see that they’ve revived, working toward something.”
Liz Miranda, 36, of Roxbury, said she has been very involved in this project since the DCR started working on it and has high hopes for the project.
“The important piece for this project is not just the park and the seating area, they have a historical building attached to it,” Miranda said. “If we want people to see Roxbury as a tourist destination and also as a place to see history then we have to care about the project.”