The Blessing of the Bay Park is an important open space in Somerville and is also a part of the Mystic River Reservation, a 10 mile, 370-acre linear park system which lies on Massachussetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) land.
Beginning in 2018, Offshoots collaborated with the Mystic River Watershed Association to complete a schematic design and revitalization plan for the Blessing of the Bay Park. Community feedback received as a part of that project revealed that the community felt the park was 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 tagline to define the vision set by the community. A masterplan design for a passive, natural riverfront park was created. The plan includes eliminating large swaths of lawn and replacing them with ecological meadows and proposes new docks, trails and picnic areas, and a reimagined boat house location. Additionally, green infrastructure practices to treat the stormwater coming from the adjacent neighborhood and to minimize future flooding impacts were proposed.
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 and 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 three years by the same installation team 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.