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YMCA Garden, Roxbury

The Roxbury YMCA, COGdesign, and Earthworks began collaborating in 2009 to create a new garden space in a dusty 3,000 square foot courtyard full of compacted soil, spindly grass, and little else. Apart from Y members walking on a dusty “desire line” path from the front door to the parking lot, the area was unused.

Children draw in the Roxbury YMCA garden.

COGdesign volunteer Monica Fairbairn designed a new garden along the sidewalk on Martin Luther King Boulevard including trees, flowering shrubs, and perennials. A new path alleviated compaction and improved the visitors’ experience while entering and exiting the Roxbury Y. The plantings emphasize selections which are native plants, hardy and drought tolerant, and requiring limited maintenance.

The new garden was installed in 2011. The garden is a welcome retreat for YMCA patrons and a place for children to gather for nature observation or to enjoy their after-school snacks. It offers the neighborhood an aesthetic experience with its welcoming, harmonious design and ornamental plantings.


Dog run, Ronan Park, Dorchester

Ro Dog Run, Dorchester

In 2008, the Friends of Ronan Park asked COGdesign for help creating a 6,000 square foot dog run in Ronan Park, Dorchester. Ronan Park is located in a low-to-middle-income area, and with a diverse mix of white, Asian, Latino, African-American, Cape Verdean, and Haitian locals. Many children, families, elderly, exercise and sports groups use the park for recreation as well as dog walkers.

There were several design challenges. The design needed to include a double-gated entry to prevent dogs from getting out accidentally, and an undersurface drainage system to avoid run-off onto neighboring properties. Dogs would quickly destroy grass, so the design required some other “paw-friendly” surface that would suit both large and small dogs that would provide drainage and be easy to keep clean. Shrubs and other plantings wouldn’t survive long inside the dog fence either, yet the area needed a distinctive, attractive border.

COGdesign volunteer Charlotte Fleetwood designed tall kite-like metal supports with fabric stretched across them as shade structures, and she placed large stones in arrangements to provide seating and conversation areas for owners. Together, the kites and stones give the space a distinctive, attractive, dog-safe design. The surface of small pebbles stays clean—and a doggie water fountain refreshes dogs after a hard romp.

Ronan Park Dog Run Ribbon Cutting/ Isabel Leon

Charlotte saw her design as providing an outdoor room—a gathering place—for dogs and their owners. “Dogs get people outside,” she says. “A place like this becomes a treat for dogs, and a treat for their owners.”

The dog run opened in 2010. This perennially-popular dog park was tied for second place in the 2014 Curbed Boston Top Dog Park contest.

Lilacs at The Children’s Room

The Children’s Room, Arlington

The Children’s Room contacted COGdesign in The Children’s Room is a non-profit that provides caring support to children after the death of someone close to them, typically a parent or a sibling. Children that come to The Children’s Room have endured trauma and stress, so their physical space needs to reflect our mission. The Children’s Room philosophy tries to show that death is part of nature, and emphasizes the organic nature of things.

The Children’s Room is a 100+ year old Victorian house located on a corner, triangular lot on a high-traffic, highly visible corner in Arlington. The lot is approximately 130 feet long (the sides), and is located on a steep hill with a large retaining wall.When The Children’s Room approached COGdesign in 2007, the group’s front yard did not reflect its mission. Neglected, boring, overgrown, with dull plantings, it was neither inviting nor comforting to grieving families, and presented a negative image to the community.

COGdesign volunteer David McCoy developed a plan to reflect the process of healing, emphasize the natural cycles of life, and bring beauty and animation to The Children’s Room’s landscape. A plant palette of floriferous, ornamental, and multi-featured selections brings butterflies, insects, and birds to the site and dazzles children with seasonal displays of flowers, fruit, form, and color.

COGdesign volunteer Eileen Michaels, owner of A Yard and A Half Land-scaping in Waltham, stepped forward to donate her company’s expertise to grade the site, prepare the soil, and build a needed retaining wall. Her crew installed a new paved walk that starts from the sidewalk and winds its way into the new front garden, installed sod and helped with planting.