To make the Fernald site one that meets community desires and needs while honoring the history of the thousands of residents who lived there. The design would be the result of community agreement on various elements, but especially a historical reckoning of Fernald’s impact towards people with disabilities. The vision could include playing fields, recreation activities for all ages, walking trails, the arts, and details of Fernald’s history throughout the site.
The Fernald property was purchased from the Commonwealth in December 2014, almost a decade ago. Since then, the historic property has been largely closed to the public. Most of the non-historic buildings have been demolished, but the historic buildings were not protected. Vandals have done untold damage, as most of the windows are broken. It is not clear what buildings are in a condition to be repurposed.
Over the years, there have been superficial efforts to gather the public’s input for the future of the Fernald. Today’s abandoned 190-acre property is a clear reflection of this failed process. In 2021, the Recreation Department hired a consultant to help determine a plan with the community. The consultant held a public meeting in December 2021 and received input from many community members. The understanding was that the consultant would come back to the public with several plans for public comment.
That never happened.
Instead, the Recreation Board approved a plan at an unusual summer meeting in July 2022. Proper notice was not given.
The current plan is as shallow as it is unambitious. The proposal is a hodgepodge with three golf activities, various courts, a train, a small memorial and 500 parking spaces. The plan does not leave the field to the right of the entrance untouched as the neighbors had been promised and an accessible playground is far away from a standard playground, contrary to preferred practice. There is only a small memorial to the thousands of people who were warehoused at Fernald, abused, and experimented upon.
As mayor, I will suspend the current plan so that the community is directly involved in the planning. I will develop a transparent, community-based planning process that allows residents to see various options and comment on them in an iterative process. More specifically, I would engage disability advocates and center a historical monument honoring people with disabilities of today, yesterday and tomorrow. Furthermore, the planning will be conducted by a consultant with experience in community planning. This way, the Fernald site will be able to meet the needs and desires of the entire community.