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RECLAMATION OF MARSHY LANDS IN WARD TWENTY-FOUR.
IN COMMON COUNCIL, January 3, 1895.
The Special Committee of the Common Council appointed to consider the subject of the reclamation of the marshy lands in Ward 24 beg leave to present the following report:
Your committee found that many of the fresh-water swamps heretofore existing had been eliminated, or were rapidly disappearing through the individual effort of private enterprise, necessitated, of course, by the extensive building operations going on in this ward, and that, together with the work of the Park Department on Franklin field, with its magnificent system of under-drainage, had, with two exceptions, practically relieved Dorchester of the worst of the fresh-water marshes.
The two exceptions noted above are the "clay pits" on Park street, in rear of the West End Railway's car-sheds, and "Churchill's swamp," so called, extending from Dorchester avenue to Washington street, adjacent to the Codman-street cemetery.
Other pest-holes were, of course, noticed, but none in such close proximity to any considerable number of dwellings.
Your committee believe that the drainage of the firstmentioned locality is a problem which entails more or less.
engineering skill, and that its solution would not only remove a standing menace to the health of Dorchester in this particular spot, but would also drain a large section of land to the west, known as the Wells farm, rapidly being covered with high-cost houses, as well as the property extending to the north, where houses have been and are being erected by the Workingmen's Building Association.
With this in mind a request was made on the City Engineer several months ago to furnish an opinion as to the feasibility of draining the "clay pits," and its approximate We regret to say that after having been referred to the Committee on Health, and after having lain dormant there for almost an entire year, this honorable body received the astounding information at its last meeting that the order "ought to pass." Your committee are therefore at a loss to submit to you any expert opinion and figures on the subject, which it hoped to receive from the Engineering Department in relation to this almost criminal state of affairs allowed to exist in this section.
Regarding the place known as "Churchill's swamp, we have to say that the municipality last year constructed through it a sewer, taking therefor a strip of land sixteen feet wide. Your committee recommend that the attention. of the new city government be called to the advisability of purchasing this marsh, if the property can be secured at a fair price, and converting it into a playground, which could be flooded for skating during the winter. It would accommodate a section of Dorchester which is situated as far from the recreation grounds afforded by the Franklin and Town fields as South Boston is from the Common, and without the latter's advantages of transit. The city has, moreover, for the past few years rented for a playground a pasture known as the "Nightingale field," which is both unsuitable and unsatisfactory. The neighborhood is largely populated by chocolate and paper mill operatives, whose working hours do not admit of much travel to distant fields for athletic entertainment.
Further than this, the Convalescents' Home of the City Hospital is near by, and it is the opinion of your committee that whatever noise might arise from the boys' sports, were this marsh converted into a common, that the inmates of the home would prefer it to the myriads of mosquitoes the swamp now breeds, or the delicate perennial odor of the "Symplocarpus Fœtidus" which here finds a congenial habitat. In fact, we would here interpolate the advisability and economy in providing commons for the people while land in this ward is comparatively cheap, that the expensive experi
ence in securing recreation grounds in the North End and Charlestown need not be repeated.
The chief recommendation, however, from your committee is in relation to the marshes caused by the influx of salt water, which probably, from the prophylactic influence of the tides, are not as inimical to the health of the district as the swamps caused by stagnant fresh water. A large proportion of the ward's superficial area is contained in these saltwater marshes, and represents practically so much unavailable assets in the yearly rounds of the assessors.
The purpose of this report is to treat only of those low lands lying along the line of the Consolidated road, from Crescent-avenue station to the city limits, and the marshes along the Neponset river already laid out by the Board of Survey into attractive drives and boulevards of the future. These areas contain respectively 290 and 200 acres.
Taxed at a low figure, with only desultory attempts along Dorchester avenue at filling in; poor efforts, usually accomplished by "standing in" with the drivers of the ash-carts, comprise all that has been done to relieve this district.
Your committee believes that these waste spots should be taken in hand at once.
It has kept well in mind that, could the South bay be filled in, the resulting enhancement in land values would be far greater. But unfortunately this latter plan presents excellent prospects of litigation from the lumber, coal, and pile dealers who still want its waters, while the reclamation of the low lands of Dorchester present no such obstacles and almost as much accessibility.
We present below a statement of the number of loads of ashes and house dirt, available as filling, as collected by the Street Department since the year 1882:
1891 (13 mos., owing to change in fiscal year),
Total number of loads
It is estimated that the loads average 43 cubic feet, giving the amount collected as 119,496,140 cubic feet.
The Street Department states that of the amount collected last year about 27 per cent. was carried to sea and dumped. As the increase in collections must have come chiefly from the growth of the suburban districts, it is safe to say that at least 25 per cent. of this enormous amount of the very best filling has been absolutely wasted for the last ten years, and the city put to actual expense to accomplish even that. With this basis of figuring, 29,874,035 cubic feet have been lost in the sea. Some allowance must be made, of course, for the light bulky stuff included in stove dirt. Estimating, however, the filling required along Dorchester avenue at an average of six feet, we find the waste, even in the last year, would have brought into the real-estate market from 10 to 14 acres of solid land, and for the whole period from 100 to 115 acres might have been reclaimed. And yet we are told that it is economical to dump it in the sea. Possibly for the appropriation for the Sanitary Division, but not for the city.
It is no farther for the scows to traverse Dorchester bay or tow up the Neponset river than it is to go down outside Boston Light, and your committee believe some system of travelling buckets, as used in the Sewer Department, might be devised to empty the scows and deposit their contents at considerable distance, if necessary, from the nearest point accessible by water.
We strenuously urge that the new city government check this waste in the Street Department.
We are positive that the extra expense incurred at the start will soon be repaid in higher tax returns from the inproved property.
We feel that it is a sanitary measure and well worth the renewed attention of the members of this body who are also to serve in 1895.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
GEO. I. ROBINSON, JR., Chairman.
EUGENE A. REED, JR., Committee.
IN COMMON COUNCIL, January 3, 1895.
Accepted, and ordered to be printed.
LIST OF ALL CLAIMS
ACTED UPON BY THE COMMITTEE DURING THE YEAR 1894.
IN COMMON COUNCIL, January 3, 1895.
The Committee on Claims submit herewith to the City Council a list of all the claims upon which they have taken action during the year 1894, and respectfully recommend that the same be printed as a city document.
For the Committee,
M. W. NORRIS.
Accepted, and recommendation adopted. Sent up for
IN BOARD OF ALDERMEN, January 3, 1895.