Offshoots Inc. worked with the Mystic River Watershed Association to complete a schematic design and revitalization plan for the Blessing of the Bay Park along the Mystic River in Somerville. The Blessing of the Bay Park is important open space in Somerville and is part of the Mystic River Reservation on Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) land – a 10 mile, 370-acre linear park system. Community feedback revealed that this park is under-utilized due to limited views and access to the river’s edge, deteriorating infrastructure and a lack of amenities.
Through public meetings, surveys, on site and door to door engagement, ‘Bringing Nature to our Neighborhood’ became the tag-line Offshoots created to define the vision set by the community. A masterplan design for a passive, natural riverfront park was created, eliminating large swaths of lawn and replacing them with ecological meadows. Locations for a new boathouse, docks, trails and picnic areas were defined along with green infrastructure to treat the stormwater coming from the adjacent neighborhood.
The Offshoots horticultural installation team received a grant in 2021 to test meadow installation at the park, and an area of existing lawn at the east end of the park was selected to be converted to a native plant meadow. In close collaboration with Larry Weaner Landscape Associates, Offshoots curated a mix of native plant species to comprise the meadow installation and developed a long-term vegetation management plan to be carried out to ensure the success of the meadow. This meadow installation is the first piece of the Blessing of the Bay masterplan to be implemented – it plays an important role in improving environmental performance, wildlife benefit, pollinator habitat, and plant biodiversity (including creation of a new seed source of straight species native plants) for the greater Mystic River watershed. The native meadow will be maintained for 3 years by the same installation team, so as to ensure successful establishment. Once established, the meadow will only need to be cut once per year in March, and the team is in close collaboration with DCR to ensure project success in the long term once the project is turned over to the DCR maintenance department.