By Douglas Yu
Four water beams drop down to the ground from a multi-functional water feature with kids jumping, shouting, and chasing each other. Getting wet does not bother them on a hot summer day. Some others played around with rock climbing and slid down the slides. East Somerville’s new park, Chuckie Harris Park provides all these activities.
With the ribbon being cut, the Board of Alderman of Somerville, the mayor and state senators, along with Chuckie’s family, were celebrating the new facility that had kept residents waiting for eight years.
Hays Morrison, the Director of Transportation and Infrastructure of the City of Somerville said there had taken a lot of work to build this new park. “In 2007, the City of Somerville purchased what was an old parking lot,” Morrison said. “It took a little bit of time to get the design solidified. We’ve been working on it since 2010 when we secured a grant from the State Office of Housing for $500,000 to build the park.”
The new park, which is located at 15-25 Cross Street in the upper north quadrant of East Somerville, was designed by Ground View Architecture. Eden Dutcher, the principal designer from the company, shared how they worked with the community to get the construction done. “We were hired as consultants to design the park. We met the community in a series of meetings to find out what they wanted in their park,” Dutcher said. “Somerville residents’ original idea is that the park needs to satisfy the needs of different age groups.”
It was a challenge for designers to come up with an idea to meet all the people’s needs, considering the limited space. Designers found a way to address an even more difficult issue, accessibility.
“When you walk around the park, all the surfaces need to be within a 2-to-5-percent slope, so that basically people don’t fall down,” Dutcher said. “This park is so tight with all the equipment, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that as a park user.”
Given that Somerville is such a dense community, it is always important to push public space and try to use spaces that serve many functions, according to Luisa Oliveira, Senior Planner of Landscape Design. “This park serves multi-functional use,” Oliveira said. “Also, we are so close to I-93 and this park has 70 new trees, so it’s definitely a huge success in terms of improving air quality.”
Apart from all the visible advantages of the new park, the surfaces of the park can filtrate stormwater. There is a ground water recharge that goes into the park. Permeable surfaces allow filtration to happen.
“We made a large investment in that,” the Mayor Joe Curtatone said. “I haven’t seen so many sustainable features in this manner in other parks in this city. The edges of the park are very soft. The materials are relatively expensive, but they guarantee kids’ safety.”
Representative of the 27th Middlesex District, Denise Provost, mentioned specifically that the slides are made of a kind of material that doesn’t store the heat in summer. “In summer, metal slides can heat up very quickly, it’s possible to burn children’s skin,” Porvost said. “The choice of the materials is excellent.”The new park is named after a child, Chuckie Harris, who accidentally died near this area in 1970s. Chuckie’s brother, Bill Harris, also attended the ribbon-cutting event. “The establishment of this park means a lot to my family,” Harris said. “We hope kids can enjoy the park and have a blast.”
With a new East Somerville school opening up for the fall semester, East Somerville students can easily walk between the school, library and park.
“It will be nice to see how people interact, especially the young Somervillians who can play, read and go to school all in the same neighborhood,” Morrison said.
“Chuckie Harris Park is an indication of community connection,” Curtatone said. “It makes Somerville an exceptional place to live, work and play for all the families.”