Some of you may be aware that Watson Park is protected under the Wetlands Protection Act as a Riverfront Area, Wetlands, and a flood plain. My understanding of the Wetlands Protection Act is that it is designed to help prevent unnecessary development within these protected resources. When the Town of Braintree approved a Splash Pad project last year, I chose to lead an appeal of the project as I feel that this area should be kept free of parking lots, storage sheds, and the concrete water park that the town is proposing.
After nearly a year and a half, the appeal with the MA DEP came to an end a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the MA DEP also approved this project. If you were to read the laws under which the project was permitted, you might find it puzzling how the project could be approved. What it boils down to is a loophole and two subjective words.
First off, any riverfront development requires that the project proposal proves that there are no feasible alternatives. This is pretty clearly stated and for this specific project the town has many alternative locations that could be pursued.
However, of course, as is probably the case for all laws, there is a loophole. If an area had been previously developed a redevelopment project may be approved provided that the project "improves existing conditions." Redevelopment projects may repair existing structures or "reuse" previously developed land. Here is where I find the words "reuse" and "improve" to be entirely subjective and these are the only reasons why the DEP was able to approve this project as I understand it.
So what is reuse? Anyone I have spoken to tends to agree that building something new on a grass field does not seem to be reuse. However the DEP has approved this project based upon a grassy and partly brush and wooded area being reused as a concrete water park.
And how exactly does this "improve" existing conditions with respect to protecting these resources? Well, the town does have to restore another area in the park of equivalent size to achieve an improvement. Now, if you look at the area being restored, it is a grassy area that is mowed regularly, and if you look at the restoration project - an "upland plant community" will be planted and it will be mowed once a year (to promote seed germination). So, the net of paving over grass, brush and partly wooded area that borders wetlands and not mowing an area regularly is apparently an improvement with respect to protecting our natural resources. This seems to be a bit of a stretch to me.
So, if you see a splash pad at Watson Park any time soon be aware that our riverfront has been protected from development by our government because the Town of Braintree has made these "improvements" to "reuse" the little public riverfront property we have in Braintree.
Now, what is particularly frustrating to me is that the Town only had to submit the splash pad project for approval to the DEP. The day following the DEP's decision to approve the appeal, apparently Mayor Sullivan met with the East Braintree Civic Association to in part discuss the addition of more parking lots to the area. Unfortunately, I was out of town for work and unable to attend this meeting, but the Mayor apparently pointed out that one of my neighbors speaking out against the project at the meeting was "the only person opposed to the project." This seems to be the trend, Thomas Whalen claimed to the DEP during the appeal that my wife and I were the only people in the town opposed to the project.
Well, I think they are wrong. There are a lot of people in the Watson Park neighborhood and all of Braintree that do not want to see a water park and additional parking developed at the park. Because of this, I am starting a petition. If you agree that we don't need to pave over the park for a seasonal water park and parking lots please join us in signing the petition.
Please sign the petition here. And please spread the word.
In addition to preserving our park, you may also consider that:
- You don't want your children playing in water recirculated in goose poop (Have you been to Watson Park lately?)
- You don't want your tax dollars maintaining a seasonal water park
- You want the Petersen Pool money spent on the Petersen Pool at the high school and not parking lots and splash pads.