I’ve been visiting in-laws south of the Mason Dixon line since last week, and interesting developments in Boston parks have been piling up in my inbox. In lieu of a round-up, I’m putting up a pile-up.

1) Most disappointing news: MBTA denies Mattapan Greenway crossing

The MBTA dealt what seems to be a death blow to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s work to build a one-mile riverside trail connecting Pope John Paul II park to a parkway in Hyde Park. The current plan, a compromise worked out over two years of meetings, calls for a grade crossing somewhere near the Mattapan Square T station. On June 8, the Dorchester Reporter stated that the MBTA has rejected a grade crossing.  Vivien Morris, Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition president, objected to the decision, writing “Please note that there are many at grade-crossings along MBTA routes and that safe crossing is doable with the correct measures in place.”

I wrote about the trail last year. Every connection into a network makes a walking/biking trail more valuable; every break in the trail makes it less useful. I hope the MBTA will come to its senses and invest in a safe crossing and invest in Mattapan residents’ health, recreation, transportation—heck, just invest in Mattapan.

Storrow Drive and the Charles River Esplanade (photo credit: John Tlumacki/Globe Staff, 2010)

2) Most intriguing news: Removing Storrow Drive?

How can you improve the Esplanade, one of Boston’s most popular firework-viewing sites? By making it bigger! The old-fashioned way is to dredge up muck from the bottom of the Charles River and dump it closer to shore to make islands, but Boston hasn’t done that since the 1950s. Instead, the Esplanade Association‘s Esplanade 2020 and Beyond Design Team recently suggested removing some traffic lanes on Storrow drive, reducing the speed limit, and adding signaled pedestrian crossings.

The group had some other ideas, too: according to the Beacon Hill Patch, their goals include “rejuvenating the park’s landscape; adding new activities to the space; increasing usable park land; make the Esplanade safer and easier to get to; create a “brand” for the park; and engender community support for future changes.” Presumably, the traffic changes would make the Esplanade safer and easier to get to. Whether the idea would engender community support for future changes remains to be seen.

3) Most Anachronistic News: Parks Affect your Brain! (as Olmsted told us)

On June 26, the Boston Globe ran an Op-Ed by Gareth Cook titled “Cities on the brain: Urban life takes mental toll; green space may cure it.” In 1886, Frederick Law Olmsted published his Notes on a Plan for Franklin Park and wrote that city living causes “excessive nervous tension, over-anxiety, hasteful disposition, impatience, irritability, and that the grateful effect of a contemplation of pleasing rural scenery is proverbially regarded as the reverse of this.” Cook provides scientific references; Olmsted offered descriptors like “hasteful disposition.” What would they write if they could travel across time and meet –say, on the…

Greenway Carousel (photo credit: Jeremy C. Fox, Boston Globe)

4) Rose Kennedy Greenway debacle of the week: the carousel!

You’d think that a quasi-private nonprofit that had its budget cut by the state last year wouldn’t be considering expensive capital improvements, but the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy isn’t just any park service: it plans to spend $2.9 million to build a permanent carousel in place of the portable model plunked down across from Faneuil Hall now. The news was the occasion for many, many comments about the Conservancy’s spending priorities, how much it should really cost to run a public park, and why it should cost $3 to ride a carousel when you can get on the T for $1.70. Perhaps it’s because the economical MBTA is saving money by not building grade crossings in Mattapan?

5) Most Incomplete News: The Public Market is coming

Public Market Layout (Credit: Daigo Fugiwara,Boston Globe)

…but when will it arrive? And who’s going to pay for the estimated $4.5 million the project will cost above and beyond the $4 million the Patrick administration has promised for a seven-day-a-week indoor food market next to the Kennedy Greenway? The Shadow knows. Well, really, the Boston Globe article states that construction could begin in 2012. Really. At least the Globe published a schematic plan of what it might possibly look like one day, maybe.

6) Nicest news: The Kingston community garden

Volunteers have started a communal community garden behind the Kingston family shelter. Now, the pantry’s 700 clients will have more fresh fruit and vegetables in addition to usual canned, dried, and plastic-wrapped shelter fare. Children living at the shelter are wandering over to look at the 1,050 square foot garden. It’s not the first community garden project for the hungry in the area—Lexington’s Interfaith Garden and the gardens at Old South Church come to mind—but it’s new, it gets people outside together, and it gets nutritious food to people who need it. What a fine gift to Boston for the Fourth of July.