By Michael Coughlin Jr.
On Tuesday, March 7, The Trustees of Reservations – who are working on Phase III of the Piers Park project – held their Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office (MEPA) environmental justice information session as part of a community engagement requirement for permitting the project.
At the end of February, The Trustees of Reservations filed an Environmental Notification Forum (ENF) as part of the permitting process. As of now, the project is viewable in the Environmental Monitor at https://eeaonline.eea.state.ma.us/EEA/MEPA-eMonitor/home and open for public comments.
The public comment period will be open until Apr. 7, and Nick Black, Managing Director of the Boston Waterfront Initiative at The Trustees of Reservations, says, “If anyone has anything positive to say, we would love to encourage you to submit that comment. If you have any feedback for us, we would love to hear that as well.”
While last week’s meeting was required through the MEPA process, Black indicated that community engagement has not been lacking in the Piers Park III process.
“While we’re now required to do this particular meeting, we’ve been doing meetings like this for a little over two years now,” said Black.
“We’ve also spent a lot of time in the community doing a variety of programming and outreach efforts.” Black specifically identified that just last year, the Waterfront Initiative engaged with over 4,500 residents of East Boston and other communities.
In 2022, community feedback was also gathered at six design review meetings hosted by The Trustees of Reservations and a design review with Piers PAC.
“I am happy to share that of the people who took our follow-up survey following those meetings, 76% of them indicated that they either liked or loved the updated design,” said Black.
Initially, the project footprint for Phase III of Piers Park was larger; however, the current design has reduced its footprint to limit environmental impact.
“We became concerned about the size of the environmental impact of that particular project [previous design], so we set about rethinking some of our approaches and how it might be built to make sure that we were still meeting our goals and providing the amenities to the community that people wanted to see here but not have such an outsized impact on the environment,” said Black.
One of the unique aspects of the new design outlined by Black was the opportunity to “leverage” the use of the existing pier. Some of the ways the project does this are by using the concrete apron for access to the water for a fishing pier and a picnic area and for enhanced habitat areas.
Other design amenities include salt marshes, a kayak launch, and more. There is also a small tie-in with this project to Piers Park Phase II, which has recently begun construction. The tie-in deals with treatments of the water’s edge, which includes seawall improvements.
With the public comment period open, residents can visit onewaterfront.org for more information about the project and should keep their eyes open for more community engagement meetings this year.
“We are looking to move into the design and detail phase of this project, which will include a number of community engagements throughout 2023, so again, please stay tuned for that. We would love your participation,” said Black.