South Weymouth Naval Air Station is a former military Superfund site that has been closed under the Base Realignment and Closure program. The challenge of the studio is to develop strategies to remediate contamination, make regional connections, and develop the site through natural and infrastructural systems in order to produce a multi-faceted landscape that enhances ecology and provides a value-added benefit to the Boston metropolis.
My team developed the site as an Ornithological Reserve. Our main focus was the enhancement of the site’s natural systems and habitat functions. Over a period of time from the present to 2050, we proposed to transform the site into an ecological preserve that serves as regional green infrastructure while resisting the spread of low-density, inefficiently allocated development. The defining characteristic of the site is its open space, which provides expansive views that are unique to the region – and more importantly, the opportunity to establish an extensive grassland ecosystem. The region is lacking in these vital landscapes which were once common in New England, but have now been subordinated by forestland and agriculture, or else have become industrial “meadows,” such as airports and landfills.
Grasslands serve as an important habitat for bird species. Many birds currently use the site year-round or as a stopover for migration, and many more will be attracted to it in the future as a result of careful design and management. Grassland plants were selected and organized in accordance with the needs of bird species that use the site.
The forest management strategy utilizes a macro approach to maximize biodiversity. In order to maintain a wide variety of habitats, we proposed selective logging in rotating plots over time. This approach establishes multiple stages of succession while maintaining the forest’s average age. The maintenance regime aims to support highest possible biodiversity and maximize the population count between all groups.
Mycoremediation is the cheapest and most effective strategy available for on-site decontamination. We proposed to use fungal materials both to decontaminate the site as well as to provide ongoing ecological benefits such as decomposing unwanted wood and supplying food to the community. We also designed a land use strategy using a land banking process, in which parcels of land are set aside for future development as transit-oriented housing adjacent to the existing commuter rail station. The sale of land and/or housing units will help fund the proposed ecological improvements to the site. The Ornithological Reserve is a public regional infrastructure that provides a unique opportunity to maintain grassland and forest for ecological enhancement and economic stimulation, while offering an educational and recreational destination to the public.