On any given day, during all seasons, Quincy residents enjoy Forbes Hill Park, located adjacent to the Furnace Brook Golf Course at 20 Reservoir Road. The park includes a large, open, grassy field that was once the site of a rectilinear reservoir carved out of the hilltop. Adjacent to the reservoir, a granite-clad water tower, called a “standpipe,” once served as a drinking water reserve for the City of Quincy. The facility was in operation until the mid-1950s, when the reservoir was filled in, the water tower was closed, and the site was deeded to the City of Quincy for park and recreational use. In 1990, the water tower was placed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its historic significance and beauty.
Over the last 65 years, city residents have used the park continuously for a variety of unscheduled and passive recreational activities, including baseball, tennis, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, tai chi, picnicking, dog walking, pick-up games, and more. Dubbed “Princess Park” by neighborhood families, it is well-loved for its expanse of open green space and the beauty of its thick buffer of tall trees, many of which are a century old. It is the primary neighborhood park within walking distance for residents in the Wollaston Hill and Forbes Hill neighborhoods, who consider it a much-needed respite from the increasingly congested streets of Quincy.
And yet, the park’s condition has suffered from years of neglect. The popular tennis and basketball courts are in need of maintenance. The urban forest that buffers the park’s perimeter is in decline, and the trees are being choked by invasive weeds and vines. Remnants of the concrete liner from the reservoir were left buried under the open field surface, causing poor storm water drainage of the fields impacting the neighbors to the north and south of the hill. The fields are often muddy due to poor drainage. The park is in desperate need of restoration to bring it back to its natural beauty.
In early March 2022, the city put forth conceptual plans to renovate the Furnace Brook Golf Course adjacent to Forbes Hill Park. The proposed changes included expanding the surface golf course parking lot into the park, displacing 10,000 square feet of open space, and the removal of over 50 century-old trees on the park’s southern border.
Many local residents immediately objected to the proposed loss of green space, recreational area, and tree cover in the urban forest to accommodate golf course parking. We believe these changes would be detrimental to the environment, our health, and the quality of life in the neighborhood.
- Green cover and open spaces capture carbon dioxide, an important greenhouse gas, and provide natural cooling and water management – making cities more resilient as climate change causes hotter and more extreme weather.
- The loss of century-old trees is detrimental to the air quality and the environment. Trees help to stabilize the earth, controlling erosion and stormwater. They also block noise, boost home values, cool areas in summertime (which reduces energy use), and provide habitat for wildlife. Important in the fight against climate change, trees – especially mature trees – remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it as wood.
- The loss of open space in the park will limit recreational activities, negatively impacting its historical functionality as a public neighborhood park.
Since March, over 300 Quincy residents petitioned the city to “Save Forbes Hill Park” – and requested that the city reduce the size of the parking lot and shift it out of the park, back onto golf course property; respect the boundary of the park; and save the century-old trees. Residents have also advocated for ”right-sizing” the clubhouse and the golf course operation so that it doesn’t overwhelm the surrounding neighborhood with unnecessary traffic and noise. We have additionally requested that the clubhouse renovation be designed to net-zero standards and be fossil-fuel-free.
Due to this advocacy, the city conducted a productive workshop meeting with the community in June, out of which guiding values and principles for the project were developed. The city is now revising the renovation project to meet the guiding values and principles set by the community.
Through these efforts, we are hopeful that the city will honor its obligations to residents to preserve, restore, and maintain open and green space at Forbes Hill Park and to “right size” the clubhouse renovation to fit the scale of the neighborhood. In densely urbanized cities like Quincy, green space is precious and should not be taken for granted.
We encourage all communities to advocate for their local parks and protect them from development (and parking lots!) for the benefit of our health, stewardship of the environment, and the enjoyment of future generations.
– Maria Mulligan, Wollaston Hill resident and co-founder of Friends of Forbes Hill Park, a neighborhood group that promotes the preservation and restoration of the park’s open and green space. To support these efforts, you can sign the petition, join the Save Forbes Hill Facebook group, or sign up for their email list at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Forbes Hill Reservoir & Water Tower in 1902, courtesy of Metropolitan Water Works Photograph Collection (photo: George P. Goodman)
top image: Forbes Hill standpipe (photo: Dana Smith)