Sunday, August 28, 2011

North Point Park, Cambridge, MA

I have heard, on and off, about the construction of North Point Park as a 'set aside' from Boston's Big Dig.  It's in an area I always shied away from because of the the traffic.  But on a quiet day last Sunday and a reminder from some landscaping associates I finally made the short trip into East Cambridge.

The 8.5 acre park was opened in Dec. 2007 and is on the north bank of the Charles River just east of Boston's Science Museum.  For backgound on the history and construction I will refer you to a Wiki article and item from the Boston Globe.  The design was done by Carr Lynch & Sandell of Cambridge and Oehme van Sweden of Washington, DC.  Van Sweden is noted for their use for grasses, and it shows well in this park. 

View looking northeast into Cambridge.
 The park is designed for multiple uses and, on my visit, it seems to do them well.  The landscape is varied.  There are large open areas for lounging or more active pursuits.  There are playground areas that are clean and modern.  There are areas with dense plantings that offer some privacy and there are a couple of islands, linked by bridges.  All of these work together to form an interesting and diverse experience.  Another aspect that I found to be very nicely done is to have separate path systems for various modes of transport: Walking paths, Bike paths and Channels for kayaking. 

Playground with fountain spary.

A more secluded gathering area. 
I'm curious how this will be used.

A section of bike path around a stand of Prairie Coneflower.

View to the east.  Plantings had to be selected to deter use by geese.

One of the Kayaking channels.

Looking at the plant palette, I was expecting to see all native plants, but what is here is a pragmatic mix of natives and non-natives with the focus on design and survivability, rather than strict use of native species. Personally, would have like to have seen more natives, but visually, this design 'works'.

Mix of grasses including native Panicum and non-native Pennisetum.

View south toward Boston through a hedge
of non-native Corneilian Cherries (Cornus mas).

Liriope and a dwarf Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)
form an effective groundcover.

My favorite combination: Joe-Pye Weed and Hibiscus hybrid ('Lord Baltimore'?)
 On this day the most striking plant compostition was the Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium dubium) and the hybrid Hibiscus.  One of the reasons I like this is that they are both wetlands plants native to the eastern U.S. (or at least derived from eastern natives).

My biggest concern for this park is how it will be maintained.  Will the beds be weeded out of invasives and plants blown in from other parts of the park, or will a form of succession be allowed.  I noticed a few patches of purple loosestrife and bittersweet growing among the plantings.  I also found a patch of Horsenettle (Solanum carolinense), a native of the southeastern U.S. that has spread across the continent.  This is a really well defended plant with thorns on its stems and its leaves.  Currently the park is not getting a lot of visitors.  I hope people come and take notice of it and insist that it get the maintenance attention that it needs in the coming years. 

1 comment:

joene said...

Thanks for the tour. Hoping to spend a couple of days in the Boston area in October and now that I know about this park I might get a chance to visit.