From where Ray Rivet lives at the corner of Rollins Park, near Stone and Bow streets, he used to be able to see an expansive plantation of pine trees.
Sometime over the course of his 27 years there, the red pines became infested with invasive bugs that threatened to kill them off.
Then in February came the heavy machinery that left behind nothing but stumps and the odd hardwood.
“It was so rapidly, mechanically taking them down,” Rivet recalled, bringing to mind a vision of what it must have been like when the hurricane of 1938 tore through the densely forested park, creating space for ballfields.
To have the character of his backyard changed so dramatically, he said, “It was uncomfortable. It’s just a big change. You’re used to seeing it always be this way it’s been since I was a kid.”
But he cast his vote Thursday, along with some 30 others huddled by the gazebo, for the South End park’s future. He picked trees, a walking trail, a covered area for picnics and maybe the restoration of the old pond or a splash pad.
“Bringing the trees back is A-number-1,” he said.
At a meeting organized by the parks and recreation department, residents of the neighborhoods nearby came by to offer options for the park and then vote with six stickers apiece.
Rivet’s favorite option, which encompassed reforesting and a walking trail with picnic spots, was dotted with so many stickers that it was almost entirely obscured.
Other popular options included a splash pad, which is a type of summertime play area for children, a reconstruction of the former pond area, educational nature trail, natural play areas and a dog park.
David Gill, the parks and recreation director, said he has requested a budget of $150,000 to do some of the site work, such as removing stumps, planting trees and creating a walking trail. Those were the main suggestions that sprung from a similar gathering in the fall, he said.
“The opportunity is to rethink it; What do we want to do?” he said. “We’re not going to get a half a million dollars to make it something that we probably don’t want it to be.”
Some of the suggestions, such as a splash pad and dog park, are included in the city’s grander reimagining of Terrill Park at the corner of Manchester Street and Old Turnpike Road, he noted. That project is projected to cost more than $3 million.
One comment made by a resident in attendance was that the park might benefit if its users banded together to create a Friends of Rollins Park group, similar to the one for White Park.
“Years ago that concept was floated out at least within the South End. While some people expressed interest in doing something, it’s never really had that catalyst to bring things together,” said Councilor Keith Nyhan. “I think that’s kind of what we’re dealing with right now.”
If people are intersted, he said, they should contact Gill so he can compile an email list.
“We can start pushing that forward,” Nyhan said. “That’s the way all these ideas are going to happen.”
(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @NickBReid.)