The vacant lots at 3014 and 3016 Vineyard Lane on the border of Waverly and Abell has been a magnet for illegal dumping.
Tree stumps, trash and automobiles have all been ditched in the lots and repeatedly cleaned out by the Charles Village Community Benefits District.
"Over the years the property has been used as a straight dumping ground. As you can see this morning, somebody had a car towed here, so we’re battling that. But in the past commercial buildings have dropped off trash here, we’ve had all sorts of dumping that’s happened over the lot," said Diana Mitchell, the benefits district’s community safety programs coordinator.
But starting on Thursday, with help from United States Naval Academy midshipmen through the city's celebration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 Sailabration, the process of converting the lots into an urban reading garden will begin.
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Evelyn Y. Jenkins, the property’s owner, has agreed to let the community use the land for a reading garden—a cause very close to her heart. Jenkins, a Navy veteran, volunteered with various programs, and helped children and sailors learn to read during her 25 years in the service.
"Reading is very important because, when they say 'it’s fundamental,' it’s true… It’s the main tool in order to begin understanding and comprehending," Jenkins said.
She said that David Hill, the benefits district’s executive director, first approached her about turning the property into a community park. Jenkins said she agreed because she didn’t have plans for the property, and because by turning it into a park it might foster some community ownership and end the illegal dumping.
"I think this is wonderful, and to have the Navy behind it—because that’s my background, I’ve done many community projects through Navy, and to see these young people out here, it’s just wonderful," Jenkins said.
Mitchell said the work being done on Thursday was the first step in a process to rehab the lots. She said the lots previously had houses on them, and the old foundations were still in place, which made creating a community vegetable garden impossible.
So the benefits district and the local communities worked with a local landscaper, who volunteered her time, to come up with a plan for a reading garden because its so close.
“That design was adding two or three garden beds, adding some benches, adding some new trees, and eventually adding some lights and we’ll repave the alley,” Mitchell said.
She anticipates the work will be complete and the park ready for residents to enjoy by August.