NEW BEDFORD-  Discussion surrounding the design of a new park planned for Abolition Row near downtown New Bedford began Thursday night at the Friends Meeting House.

The meeting, held between community members and COGDesign (Community Outreach Group for Landscape Design) of Cambridge, the firm chosen to head the Master Plan of the site, discussed plans for the park with input from the public.

Representing COGDesign of Cambridge was Barbara Conolly, MPS, Garden by Barbara Conolly, and Heather Heimarck, ASLA, Highmark Land Design, who led discussions about what the park will represent to the physical features of it with the attendees, totaling about fifteen to twenty people. President of the New Bedford Historical Society, Lee Baker, was also in attendance to engage in open-discussion with the public regarding the park design.

The park is planned to be on the corner of Spring and Seventh Streets, the land of two former historic homes that were destroyed in a 2009 fire. Dispute over the land between the absentee landlord and the New Bedford Historical Society continued for roughly seven years until the City of New Bedford was able to gain ownership of the property.

The park will be designed to celebrate interracial and intercultural collaboration while highlighting New Bedford’s historic role in the abolitionist movement during the nineteenth century. Leading in the whaling industry at the time of the abolitionist movement, New Bedford became one of the wealthiest cities in the world, helping to fund the Underground Railroad from the massive economy it generated.

Designers presented different options to the physical setup and layout of the park as well as different methods of conveying the intended theme and historical significance of the site to the community. Ideas include building a gazebo for the site, a bench in honor of Fredrick Douglas, a free library, and educational exhibits. A perimeter of trees is planned to surround the park along with a community garden at a spot that will be decided later.

Concerns of the project from the community remained minimal. Lighting of the park was a minor safety concern of one of the residents of the area, as well as giving providing security to project once finished.

The public is welcomed to a  formal groundbreaking ceremony will be held at the site of the project on Friday, May 12th, with individuals from the U.S. Conference of Mayors expected to attend.




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