June 24, 2014
The City of Malden is pleased to announce the re-opening of Waitt’s Mounts following the completion of construction to revitalize one of Malden’s most impressive and unique public parks. This major transformation included a significant clean-up effort in the summer of 2012 to remove dead trees, poison ivy, graffiti and glass. A final construction project is substantially complete, and includes the identification and highlighting of the park’s unique history; completion of a Loop Walk plus a universally accessible walkway to the Tower Ring which allows the park to be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities; and a series of new play and recreation areas gracefully woven into the historic context. These improvements illustrate the City of Malden’s commitment to creating beautiful and innovative public spaces. The work was conceived and led by a team from Shadley Associates, from concept development through construction completion.
Waitt’s Mount has a long, rich history that is intricately tied to the development of Malden as a whole. The Pawtucket tribe of American Indians is one of the many tribes that inhabited eastern Massachusetts. European exploration of Waitt’s Mount dates to 1629 when, under orders by Governor Endicott, early settlers Ralph, Richard and William Sprague left Salem to find land for the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Their party took the Salem Path, a Native American trail, past Waitt’s Mount as they wound their way towards Charlestown. The following year, Governor Winthrop led an exploration party that climbed Waitt’s Mount to survey the area. In 1638, John Wayte, for whom Waitt’s Mount was named, arrived from England and settled on nearby Mountain Avenue. Wayte was the son-in-law of Joseph Hills, who named Malden after his hometown of Mauldon, England. Wayte went on to represent Malden in the General Court, serve in the local militia, and serve as town clerk for thirty-five years.
A number of historical events were witnessed from Waitt’s Mount. These include the British retreat from Concord on April 19, 1775; the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775; and the final departure of the British Fleet from Boston on Saint Patrick’s Day, 1776. That same year, Malden became the first town in Massachusetts to call for independence (three days before Boston). In the fall of 1778, a guard and beacon were posted on Waitt’s Mount to warn Boston and the surrounding area of a British attack. The beacon was never lit.
The town government first voted to purchase the land and make Waitt’s Mount a park and recreational site in 1869. The original plans called for the park to stretch from Main Street to Lebanon Street and from Forest Street to Salem Street. The park became a major part of civic life in Malden. In 1875, town selectmen launched a hot air balloon from the summit for the Fourth of July celebration, and in March 1885, the inauguration of Grover Cleveland was celebrated with a hundred-gun salute. In 1889, a standpipe, or water tower, was built on Waitt’s Mount. At the time it was the largest water reserve tank in the United States with a capacity of over a million gallons. In the 1930’s the Works Progress Administration (WPA) undertook a series of improvements including the construction of the loop road around the summit. During the Second World War, the War Department repurposed Waitt’s Mount as an anti-aircraft coastal defense site with a battalion of ten gunners.
In the last ten years, the once-stately park had begun to show its age. In 2005, the landscape architecture firm of Shadley Associates was engaged to develop a master plan vision for a revitalized Waitt’s Mount. This vision was refined with Malden city leaders and members of the community to create the plan which would ultimately guide the redevelopment of the park. In 2012, the city council approved a bond to fund the improvements and design and construction began.
Waitt’s Mount is a special place, unique to Malden and the greater Boston area, and the park improvements respect and honor this 10.6 acre site. The granite outcrop at Waitt’s Mount is comprised of Lynn Volcanic Complex, which dates from the Proterozoic Era (2.5 billion to 542 million years ago). The summit is 210 feet above sea level; in comparison, Malden Center is at 23 feet above sea level. The park’s summit with stunning views of the Boston skyline and its granite and forested surrounds, constructed WPA era history and current use as a rock climbing and bird watching site, were protected and enhanced by the park improvements.
The overarching goal of the project was to protect existing features, encourage public use, provide new opportunities to enjoy the site, and to create site improvements that are consistent with the natural environment.
With this goal in mind, the new park improvements created new public amenities in the areas of the site that were previously disturbed, thereby protecting the natural areas. The site is accessed from a resurfaced driveway up to a small parking area (additional parking is available on nearby public streets). A degraded basketball court was reconstructed and is enjoyed by many people. The parking area is the beginning of the Loop Walk, a paved quarter-mile walk around the summit that was constructed in the 1940’s. The exposed ledge area along the Loop Walk is popular with rock climbers. The site is protected by security cameras.
The park improvements also feature:
An Adventure Playground – The Adventure Playground at Waitt’s Mount uses natural materials, including boulders, tree stumps, and graded banks to create an imaginative, innovative play space. The play elements create opportunities for accessible, age-appropriate play, plus social and learning opportunities that integrate well with the naturalistic look and feel of Waitt’s Mount. The playground was sensitively designed to integrate movement corridors and respond to sun paths, weather patterns, drainage courses, and plant groupings. There is a small house structure on a platform, log steppers, a rock scramble, and embankment slide, and a balance beam.
The look and feel of adventure playgrounds are based on research that acknowledges the necessity of childhood exposure to the natural world, especially as values about the outdoors are established in the first 5 years. Many studies prove that a relationship with nature contributes to the overall physical, cognitive, and emotional development of children, helps them score higher on tests for concentration and self-discipline, helps them experience more diverse play, and helps them exhibit less aggressive behavior, strive toward advanced motor fitness, and become healthier. The new Adventure Playground at Waitt’s Mount is designed with these concepts in mind and provides a safe, fun environment for children to begin to build a relationship with the beauty and complexity of nature.
The main Adventure Playground is complemented by a small playground on the southern end of the Loop Walk. In this location there is a small obstacle course, near two picnic tables that savor the view of the Boston skyline.
Loop Walk – In the 1940’s the WPA constructed a park ranger house at the southern end of the site, at the location of the obstacle course. This walkway has now been paved and marked with distance markers, for recreational walking. It connects with a small neighborhood park entrance from Mountain Avenue. The invasive poison ivy and Devil’s Walking Stick have been removed, as have many dead and diseased trees, making it safe for public use!
Tower Ring – just north of the summit there is a large flat area that previously held a large water tower that was constructed in 1889. The granite foundations of the tower are still visible, and now contain a new paved area with seats that view north towards a newly opened view. One of the most important achievements of the new park is to create a universally accessible route to this space, which was previously inaccessible and hidden from view. Winding between large granite outcrops, the new pathway takes advantage of the sloping hillside with varying views. The area is planted with a meadow mix which over time will attract butterflies and encourage habitat.
Rain Garden – Because of the substrate of impervious ledge at Waitt’s Mount, stormwater and site need to be accommodated to protect the natural site as well as the new improvements. The new parking area drains to the basketball court, which drains to a new rain garden. Test pits in this location confirmed that rain water can infiltrate in the existing soils. This shallow depression, planted with grasses and plants, captures stormwater runoff and treats the water as it infiltrates into the ground. During rain storms, runoff will flow into the rain garden and pollutants will be filtered as the runoff infiltrates, thereby reducing both pollutants and runoff to areas further downstream.
Interpretive Signs – One of the most important features at Waitt’s Mount are the new interpretive signs. These four signs describe the site’s geological and cultural history, and talk about the features of the site. The signs were created with help from the Malden Historical Commission, and are important to encourage a full understanding of this special place by its visitors. With understanding will hopefully come a full appreciation and protection of this unique park.
The leaders in the City hope that the public will enjoy Waitt’s Mount and will visit it often. By removing dead trees, opening views, providing places for people to sit and linger, and by encouraging an understanding of the site, the City of Malden and the Malden Redevelopment Authority encourage all to visit.
A project of this scale would not be possible without a team committed to its success. The Mayor, City Council, Ward Councilor and the Malden Redevelopment Authority have been the leaders for funding and project guidance. Significant contributions were also made by the Department of Public Works, Police and Fire Departments and the Malden Historical Commission. The consultant design team was led by the landscape architectural firm of Shadley Associates, who have designed and assisted with the construction of many Malden parks. Their team included Meridian Associates (civil engineers), RDK Engineers (electrical engineers), Roll Barresi & Associates (graphic designers), McArdle Gannon (geotechnical engineers), and DM Berg Consultants (structural engineers). Early site cleanup work was performed by Atlantic Power Cleaning and Bartlett Tree Experts. The main construction project was by Argus Construction Corporation of Bedford, MA, who acted as the general contractor, with subcontractors that include Natural Playground Company, Systems Electrical Services and Sunshine Sign.