Mission Hill Park in process of being designated an official arboretum

MISSION HILL, Mass. — The Kevin Fitzgerald Park in Mission Hill is an urban oasis just a few miles from downtown Boston.

The 5.5-acre swath of green space is the pride of the neighborhood and is in the process of joining elite environmental sanctuaries across the country.

A group of Northeastern University students is turning the park into a level one arboretum.

“What makes an arboretum really important is access to community and providing green space for people,” said Indira Holdsworth, one of the NU students.

Visitors to the park can see shiny tags attached to many of the plants. The students are attaching these which include specific information about the different types of species they’ve been able to identify.

One of the criteria for being designated a level one arboretum is to document the presence of at least 25 species of plants.

“We started the inventory process going around and seeing what species already exist and we put that in an Excel spreadsheet,” explained Jessica Johnson, another one of the students involved in the project.

So far, the students have identified 21 different plant species, but this is just one step in the certification process. “We also need to have a master plan which will help guide the Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services in maintaining the park,” added Nadia Plaschke, another NU student.

“It can guide what we plant in the future,” said Johnson. “There are a lot of invasive species so we want to incorporate native plantings.”

Residents of Mission Hill like the idea of upgrading this park. “It’s just a gem in the city. It’s a great place to be,” said Mike Fitzpatrick. The park is named after his father Kevin Fitzgerald, a former state representative.

For the students, this has been a valuable learning experience, and a chance to leave the neighborhood they’ve called home for a few years in better shape.

“Ecologically, this is a really important thing to have here, let alone all the community aspects and the importance it has for people who live in this neighborhood,” said Holdsworth.

Another requirement to be an official arboretum is to have an annual event on Arbor Day which is the last Friday in April. Plans are underway to have a tree planting event this year at Fitzpatrick Park which could also help them get to that magic number of 25 different species.

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