Brookline Reservoir Park

Brookline Reservoir

Project Update 

September 2019

There continue to be two construction contracts underway, one for the Brookline Reservoir Park renovation and one for the exterior improvements to the Brookline Reservoir Gatehouse.  The park work is approximately 50% complete, and we just had a 50% review by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Office of Dam Safety with positive feedback.  The exterior improvements to the gatehouse are 95% complete, with the only remaining work items being installation of the refinished windows and new doors.  This exterior work was funded in part by  the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund administered by the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

Progress on the park renovation is as follows:

  • Donor Opportunities: The existing donor benches that have been removed for refurbishment and reinstallation with their donor plaques have been an integral part of the character of the park, and a number of people have expressed interest in additional donor opportunities to commemorate loved ones.  Town staff is preparing a master plan for these opportunities, including different kinds of site furniture beyond the traditional benches and signature trees.
  • Valve Work: Work on the valves inside the building is complete, with concrete infill in place for the chambers that were taken out of use and two new 16 inch gate valves installed.  The coffer dam that was installed to accommodate this work has been removed, and the reservoir is no longer being dewatered.
  • Utilities: New water and sewer lines have been installed at the gatehouse to serve the new restroom, construction of which will be the third and final construction project as part of the overall improvements.  New electrical supply remains to be done.
  • Slopes on Top of the Dam: Clearing and grubbing of the slopes on top of the dam structure is complete, and topsoil is being placed in preparation for seeding with ornamental grasses.
  • Ornamental Metal Fencing: Submittals have been approved for the ornamental metal fencing, including a sample panel, and fabrication has begun.  This fence will run along the dam to provide a sense of security and safety, especially where the stone dust path is elevated above the adjacent roadways and properties.
  • Granite Masonry: Shop drawings for the new granite stairs with cheekwalls and granite steps for the entrance off of Route 9 and Warren Street have been approved, along with a granite sample, and the stone is being cut.  The general contractor, David G. Roach & Sons, has reset the granite cap stones for the stone retaining wall at the dam that had shifted.  Town crews will be repointing the retaining wall.
  • Stone Dust Path: Replacement of the existing stone dust walking path has just begun, with excavation of the top course and subbase drainage layer, and placement of new stone dust.  The interior of the reservoir basin at the path’s pinch point in front of the gatehouse is being reworked and has had its stones numbered and recorded so they can be replaced as part of the effort to widen the path.
  • Next Steps: Upcoming work will include reworking the electrical supply at Warren Street and Route 9 to eliminate the utility pole at the corner and provide new lighting at and near the gatehouse.  We plan to tag the plant materials in the nursery relatively soon to ensure that we have a good selection.  Final layout of the ornamental metal fence will be worked out in the field.  We have provided comments on the review set for the bidding of the restroom in the gatehouse and will put that package out to bid as soon as the revisions are made.
  • Budget and Funding: The project is valued at $3.1 million and is funded by $2.2 million in capital funding, $500,000 in stormwater/drain infrastructure funding and $400,000 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal Program in addition to the Massachusetts Preservation Project Fund mentioned above.  There were deadlines associated with the two state grants, and the grant funds were expended before the due dates.
  • Schedule: Work is expected to be complete and the park reopened in the spring of 2020.
  •  Further Information: You can follow the construction progress by visiting the Town’s website at Project Updates under the Parks and Open Space home page.  You can also contact Annie Blair, Landscape Architect with the Parks and Open Space Division, Department of Public Works, by phone at (617)730-2616, or by email at ablair@brooklinema.gov.  

June 2019

At this point the Brookline Reservoir Park construction project is approaching one month of work on site, and work is progressing steadily on the park and gatehouse improvements as part of two separate construction contracts.  David G. Roach & Sons is responsible for the park improvements, including utility improvements inside the gatehouse, and the status of their work is as follows:

  • Site Preparation As part of securing the site and preparing for the construction, temporary construction fencing was installed accompanied by job signs describing the project and notifying the public that the park is closed for safety reasons.  Erosion controls, including a gravel construction entrance off of Dudley Way, and silt socks to catch sediments before they can travel into the basin or off-site are in place.  In addition, corrugated plastic pipes have been placed to protect the trunks of trees that are vulnerable to construction damage.  
  • Tree Removals - The removal of trees on top of the dam structure, as worked out with the Commonwealth’s Office of Dam Safety (ODS), and elsewhere on site as determined by the Town’s Arborist who identified existing trees suffering significant decay, is almost complete.  As described in last month’s Project Update and other communications, a multi-year process was undertaken with the ODS, initiated by a directive per the regulations to remove all trees and shrubs on top of the dam and plant the area with grasses that could be mowed periodically to allow for visual inspection. This is the standard treatment for dams across the state, the intent being to maximize structural stability that could be compromised by uprooted trees, penetrating roots, and burrowing animals. The relationship of the dam to the surrounding densely populated area and the topography mean that although the ODS considers the dam to be well maintained, the risk of loss of life and property should the dam fail could be very significant. The Parks and Open Space Division worked with the ODS to develop an alternative plan that ensured the integrity of the dam while maintaining some trees on the dam, particularly Cherry trees, located above the water elevation. This plan involved a survey of the existing vegetation, a series of meetings and site visits with Town staff including the Town Arborist, ODS staff, and engineering consultants retained by the Town who specialize in dam improvements, plus development of a Tree Management Plan and a commitment to regular inspections. The changes proposed, especially the tree removals on the dam which is located on either side of the gatehouse and occupies approximately 40% of the reservoir’s perimeter, while necessary, are a profound change to the visual character of the park.  We will be replanting some of the Cherries that were removed on top of the dam that were in decline as well as planting a variety of shade trees elsewhere that will provide a greater variety of species and visual characteristics.  In addition to the job signs posted on the construction fence, we have placed A-frame signs around the park’s perimeter describing the need for the tree removals.
  • Removal of Invasive Plant Species - Invasive upland plant species such as Black Swallow-wort, Multiflora Rose, Garlic Mustard, and Tree of Heaven have been removed and disposed of appropriately, and the affected areas grubbed.  These areas will be replanted with trees, shrubs, and a woodland seed mix.
  • Selective Demolition and Removals - Demolition of items such as concrete bench pads that need to be replaced is complete.  Trash receptacles have been removed and will be replaced by Big Belly trash and recycling units.  Benches have been removed in order to be refurbished and reinstalled.
  • Dewatering for Valve and Masonry Repair -Drawing down the water in the Reservoir basin is complete, leaving approximately half of the basin with water with depths ranging from a few inches to eight feet deep.  (The original depth was a maximum of approximately twenty feet.)  The dewatering was necessary in order to perform work on the underwater valves inside the gatehouse, which are not performing as designed in 1848.  Installation of a coffer dam should be complete today, which will allow access to the valves.  The coffer dam is being constructed out of large and small sandbags which are being placed by divers.  The dewatering also allows access for repointing the mortared joints in the stone armature inside the basin, which is underway.  After this work is complete the Reservoir will again be filled to its original water elevation.
  • Fish in the Reservoir - People have expressed concern about the fish in the Reservoir given the dewatering.  The Project Engineer for the Town has been on site every work day and has been observing the fish.  To date he has counted eleven dead fish, most of which were crappies which can die at this time of year after they have spawned.  He has also been in contact with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, which did not restock the Reservoir this year per the Town’s request in anticipation of construction but will resume restocking after construction is complete.
  • Gatehouse Interior - Selective demolition inside the gatehouse is approximately 75% complete, including removal of debris from the valves and removal of temporary bracing that had been installed as part of a previous roof project which was completed approximately two years ago.
  • Gatehouse Exterior- Improvements are being made to the exterior of the gatehouse as part of a separate contract and funded in part by the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund administered by the Massachusetts Historical Commission.  Overall cleaning of the building is almost complete, the mortared joints have been cleaned and repointed, new doors are being fabricated, and window grates have been removed for cleaning. 
  • Next Steps for the Rest of June and Into July - The Town’s Forestry crew will be removing additional trees very shortly. These consist of a Norway Maple which has grown into and damaged an abutter’s fence, and several trees at the Lee Street side of the park which have extensive decay and pose a safety hazard as determined by the Town’s Arborist. When the coffer dam is completely in place, work will begin on the valve improvements and building out the slope where the existing stone dust path runs along the gatehouse in order to make it wider and eliminate the current pinch point.
  • Budget and Funding - The project is valued at $3.1 million and is funded by $2.2 million in capital funding, $500,000 in stormwater/drain infrastructure funding and $400,000 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal Program in addition to the Massachusetts Preservation Project Fund mentioned above.
  • Schedule - Work is expected to be complete and the park reopened in the spring of 2020.
  • Further Information - You can follow the construction progress by visiting the Town’s website at Project Updates under the Parks and Open Space home page (https://www.brooklinema.gov/1408/Brookline-Reservoir-Park).  You can also contact Annie Blair, Landscape Architect with the Parks and Open Space Division, Department of Public Works, by phone at (617)730-2616, or by email at ablair@brooklinema.gov.

May 2019

Construction Improvements Have Begun at Brookline Reservoir Park

Construction has begun at the Brookline Reservoir Park and Gatehouse.  The Reservoir and Gatehouse, built in 1848 as part of Boston’s first municipal water system, is used by the entire Brookline community and beyond for walking, running, fishing, and passive enjoyment of this unique and historic resource.  The project is valued at 3.1M and is funded by 2.2M in capital funding, $500,000 in stormwater/drain infrastructure funding and $400,000 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal Program.  Brookline was fortunate to be selected for grant funding to attend to important infrastructure repair of the Brookline Reservoir dam and flood control structures.  In addition, the Town received a $50,000 grant from the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund (MPPF) Round 24 to make improvements to the exterior of the Reservoir Gatehouse.  The MPPF is a state-funded 50% reimbursable matching grant program established to support the preservation of properties listed in the State Register of Historic Places, and it is administered by the Secretary of the Commonwealth William Francis Galvin and the Massachusetts Historical Commission.  The park and gatehouse improvements comprise a unique project in the Town given its many layers, and the key goals have been the following:

  • Historic preservation, including stabilization and exterior restoration of the gatehouse;
  • Dam stabilization and compliance with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Office of Dam Safety’s  (ODS) regulations;
  • Utility upgrades and valve improvements for emergency controls at the gatehouse;
  • Park improvements, the reconstruction of the stonedust walking path around the reservoir and widening the path at the current pinch point on the water side of the gatehouse, new ornamental safety fencing along the top of the dam, improved and accessible entrances, storm water management, removal of both aquatic and upland invasive plant species, and new plantings;
  • Masonry repair to the reservoir basin and retaining walls;
  • Addition of a restroom inside the gatehouse; and
  • Replacement of the existing bus shelter on Boylston Street/Route 9.

It is important to highlight that a multi-year, parallel process was undertaken with the Office of Dam Safety (ODS), initiated by a directive per the regulations to remove all trees and shrubs on top of the dam and plant the area with grasses that could be mowed periodically to allow for visual inspection.  This is the standard treatment for dams across the state, the intent being to maximize structural stability that could be compromised by uprooted trees, penetrating roots, and burrowing animals.  The relationship of the dam to the surrounding densely populated area and the topography means that, although the ODS considers the dam to be well maintained, the risk of loss of life and property should the dam fail could be very significant. The Parks and Open Space Division worked with the ODS to develop an alternative plan that ensured the integrity of the dam while maintaining some trees on the dam, particularly Cherry trees, located above the water elevation.  This plan involved a survey of the existing vegetation, a series of meetings and site visits with Town staff including the Town Arborist, ODS staff, and engineering consultants retained by the Town who specialize in dam improvements, plus development of a Tree Management Plan and a commitment to regular inspections. The changes proposed, especially the tree removals on the dam which is located on either side of the gatehouse and occupies approximately 40% of the reservoir’s perimeter, while necessary, will be a profound change to the visual character of the park.

The Park will remain closed during construction for safety reasons. Work on the exterior of the gatehouse has begun, installation of construction fencing and gates is complete, and we are currently working on drawing down the water in the basin to allow access to the valves and masonry, vegetation removal, and installation of a coffer dam at the gatehouse.  Work is expected to be completed by the end of the 2020 construction season.  You can follow the construction progress by visiting the Town’s website at this web site, https://www.brooklinema.gov/1408/Brookline-Reservoir-Park or contacting Annie Blair, Landscape Architect with the Parks and Open Space Division, Department of Public Works, by phone at (617)730-2616, or by email at ablair@brooklinema.gov.  

February/March 2019

The bid package for the park improvements has been completed and is currently available to contractors.  Bids are due on March 19th, and an encouraging number of contractors have indicated interest.  Once a successful low bidder has been established, the contract will be awarded and executed by the Select Board, and we hope to begin construction as soon as weather permits this spring.  In the meantime, the Office of Dam Safety is reviewing the proposed work and we are engaging in a dialogue with them about work on top of the dam structure.  The majority of the utility work and valve repairs are being included in the park improvements contract.

There are two separate contracts for work at the Gatehouse itself, one for exterior improvements consisting of repointing the granite and window and door replacement, and one to construct the gender-neutral restroom inside the Gatehouse.  The successful bid for the exterior improvements came in below budget, which will allow us to increase the scope, and the low bidder is a contractor who has done good work for us in the past.  Architectural design for the interior work is approaching completion and is incorporating comments from the Preservation Commission, which has been reviewing the work along the way.  The exterior work will take place first and should be complete by the end of June. Interior work will happen after the utility and valve improvements have been made

May 2018

After four public Design Review Committee meetings, the Park and Recreation Commission voted approval of the park’s landscape preliminary design, its scope and budget, and the base contract with add alternates. The proposed site work for the park is under review by the dam and geotechnical consultant team, and then will go to the ODS for their review and comment. We hope to issue a site construction package for bidding in 2019.

Outside of the park’s landscape improvements, the Gatehouse is also in need of a number of improvements:

  • Addition of a gender-neutral restroom inside the Gatehouse
  • Replacement of doors and windows at the Gatehouse
  • Repair or replacement of historic valves within the Gatehouse
  • Utility upgrades including water, sewer, and electrical at the Gatehouse

Separate efforts are underway to address the construction of the restroom in the Gatehouse and its attendant utilities, and the valve repairs. While the park plans are under review, we are acquiring additional necessary survey and utility information for conditions below the water at the Gatehouse and the architectural design is proceeding.

Project Description

Brookline Reservoir Park is a 32 acre park surrounding a man-made body of water approximately one mile in circumference.  The Reservoir was completed in 1848 as the terminus of the Cochituate Aqueduct, Boston’s first public water supply.  Its key architectural feature is the Lower Gatehouse, an elegant granite structure.  The park’s recreational and landscape features include a stonedust walking path around the perimeter of the water basin, a series of entrances into the park, over sixty memorial benches, signature flowering Kwanzan Cherry trees, and a mix of mature woodland trees, primarily deciduous.  There are some open lawn areas used for passive recreation.  The park is a destination for Brookline residents from all neighborhoods in the town as well as visitors from other communities.  The park is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, and was declared a National Historic Site.

The park is in need of a number of landscape site improvements:

  • Universal access
  • Masonry repair at the interior of the basin and at the Gatehouse
  • Turf and planting renovation
  • Renovation of the walking paths, including a solution for a “pinch point” at the Gatehouse on the water side
  • Drainage and stormwater management improvements
  • Removal of invasive plant materials

In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Office of Dam Safety (ODS) is requesting the removal of vegetation on top of the dam structure itself in order to prevent potential dam failure due to downed trees and burrowing animals, and allow regular visual inspections of the dam’s condition.  The Town has engaged the services of a dam and geotechnical engineering firm to aid us in conversations with the ODS about the ultimate impact on the park’s character.

The project’s goals prioritize maintaining the park’s character while addressing the necessary improvements.