Flora and Future Delights at North Point Park

Photograph by Richard Felber for Oehme, Van Sweden & Associates, Inc.

The Glorious Fourth has gone out with a BOOM!, Bastille day revelers have long since abandoned the barricades, and the local tomatoes have finally arrived at the farmers’ markets. It’s late summer, and the big bright floppy prairie flowers are in full bloom in the New American Garden–that is, North Point Park.

North Point is a fairly new park; it opened in 2007 in an out-of-the-way corner of Cambridge next to the Zakim Bridge. I was reminded of North Point’s summer blooms by this article on Oehme, Van Sweden & Associates (OVSA), the landscape architects who designed North Point. Their design philosophy, which they call the “New American Garden,” as articulated by Falmouth Patch writer Janet Belding, is this:

“Instead of following the time-worn guideline of using odd numbers of plants (usually three or five), Oehme and van Sweden designed their gardens with masses of plants, creating the effect of the colonized meadow, a la nature.”

In other words, they put in low-maintenance monoculture perennial plantings. And *that* is what you get at North Point Park; BIG hunky masses of purple coneflower, brown-eyed Susans, and Joe Pye weed. Whee!  And a first-class playground and spray-deck for moistening the kids. And channels for kayaks to paddle. And views across the Charles River.

If North Point weren’t stuck out in the middle of No-Man’s-Land between Route 28 and Route 93, it would be one of the busiest parks in Boston. As it is, very few people can walk there–and who thinks to drive up the Monsignor O’Brien Highway to go to a park?

By next year, though, thousands of people will be able to walk there. As part of the extremely gradual construction of Big-Dig mandated pedestrian facilities, the state is constructing a pedestrian bridge between Paul Revere Park in Charlestown and North Point Park, due to be finished in spring 2012.  Pardon me; according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, it won’t be just any old pedestrian bridge; it will be a “unique and signature sinusoidal bridge.”

The stanchions that will support the bridge, though are not unique; someone seems to have photocopied the Zakim Bridge supports and turned them upside down (they bend without the weight on top to straighten them out.) There are several fine pictures of them on this Charles River Conservancy blog post, along with the curious revelation that the Charlestown waterfront features a monument to potatoes. The explanation: “Potato sheds were once located where the Bunker Hill Community college Parking lots are.”  Well! That explains everything.

There’s even talk of “The Leonard P. Zakim Bridge Underbridge Plaza.” My first image of an “Underbridge Plaza” is of people living there in cardboard boxes, or perhaps the Red Hot Chili Peppers, um, enjoying themselves. This “Underbridge Plaza,” though, is “a designed green space utilizing existing granite to create cobble plazas and walkways to feature several art elements along the river’s edge.”  There will even be parking! Fancy that!

But for now, if you can steel your nerve and resist the Science Museum’s rational attractions, the magnetic pull of Route 93, or the seductive lure of potatoes, do take a trip to North Point Park. You won’t have the place to yourself much longer.

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