By Richard Campbell
The issue on hand is the deteriorating condition of the Dorchester Heights monument, which has been closed for some time. Although the lawn is nice, the park is also badly in need of repairs to its stairs, and wall infrastructure. In the last deferred maintenance report for 2016, the Boston branch of NPS had deferred maintenance costs of $106,603,602, and we assume some part of that would belong to Dorchester Heights.
It must be understood that the Heights is within the same NPS Boston branch that includes the Charlestown Navy Yard, and Bunker Hill Monument- both of which have received very expensive renovations. The USS Constitution’s restoration was just completed for 12 million, and Bunker Hill was done in 2007 for 3.7 million.
Still despite these expenses, we wonder why smaller repairs to the stairs on the lawn of Dorchester Heights, could not occur more expeditiously. Sources told us that work orders have been in the ready for a while, and we are contacting NPS locally to get some clarification on what it might cost to repair the stairs, and if there is a schedule for maintenance. A Ranger confirmed that extensive repairs to the monument would be in the millions, and that NPS would not see that happening in the immediate future. The monument was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 2001, and the site received renovations in 1999 and 2014, but the monument has been closed since 2012, having the lawn stairs repaired seems kind of minor. Increased funds were allocated in 2016 for NPS Boston. To quote the NPS site:
“The parks benefitted when Congress increased support in FY 2016 by providing an additional $90 million to address DM and an additional $28 million for transportation related DM, repairs, and construction. While increases like these enable the NPS to address more of its most critical requirements, the total maintenance needs across the system are still being identified in excess of current funding levels.”
This raises the issue of whether the National Parks will see an increase in repairs in 2017, and if Dorchester Heights “rates” as a park that deserves attention. The manner in which is determined is the facility condition index or FCI.
“What is the facility condition index?
The facility condition index (FCI) is a measure of a facility’s relative condition at a particular point in time. The FCI rating is a ratio of the cost of repair of the asset’s deferred maintenance divided by the current replacement value for the asset. A lower FCI rating indicates better facility condition.”
An interesting aspect of the preservation history of the monument on Dorchester Heights was the use of photogrammetry to monitor materials deterioration and structural problems that was completed in the 1982 NPS report. It would seem that the tower originally designed by Peabody and Stearns architects, (who also designed the Custom House Tower in downtown) and was erected in 1902. is not considered safe enough to be open to the public. Much of the damage must be to the monument’s sustained exposure to the wicked weather on the heights, and one can see cracks on the façade. The last time I was up in the top of the monument almost ten years ago, the condition didn’t seem that severe.
While the park lawn is very well groomed by NPS, another issue brought to SBO’s attention during our visit to the monument was the recent rash of dog owners who have been letting their pooches “run wild” without leashes. One dog owner who had her dog on a leash said that some of the “new” owners don’t pay attention to their dogs running around; and especially with families with small children, this can present a problem. After visiting a few times in the morning, it seemed like a non-issue, as the owners were very respectful of the space, and stayed close by their dogs. We observed no signs telling owners dogs must be leashed, but will check with NPS further.