McLaughlin Woodlands and Orchards
The top of Mission Hill was terraced into 5 tiers when the Parker estate was transformed into a playground by the Boston Parks Department in 1931-32. The 5th tier is the Parker hilltop. The 4th tier below it is currently used recreationally. In the past it hosted tennis courts and even used as a parking lot for the NE Baptist Hospital. The 3rd tier has basketball courts and a tot lot. The 2nd and largest tier contains a softball field and running track. The 1st tier contains the home field of Mission Hill Little League.
The southern slope of McLaughlin Playground on Mission Hill runs above Fisher Avenue between Parker Street and Bucknam St. and comprises approximately seven acres of land. It is populated by red oaks, black and honey locust, elm and bitternut hickory. Since 1999 there has been a campaign in partnership with the Boston Parks Dept. Urban Wilds Initiative to restore native flora and counteract the invasive hegemony of Norway maples. Approximately 300 restoration trees and shrubs have been planted since then. The woodland includes at least 20 mature apple trees from 30 to 100 years old. These trees are descendents of the colonial orchard of Peter Parker after which the hill was named.
In the area at the southwest area of the park that borders the 4th tier to the south is an orchard of heritage variety apple and pear trees, along with American plum and apricots, planted beginning in 2000 by Earthworks Projects. The philosophy of Bill Palmer Taylor who founded the organization was to make fruit available in public spaces for the enjoyment of anyone passing by. Both the old apple trees and the more recently planted orchard are productive of excellent fruit.
The back path runs above and parallel to Fisher Ave from the top of the park in the orchard by the 4th tier down to the 1st tier and Little League field. As it dips below the softball field on the 3rd tier it enters into the heart of the woodland. Many of the plantings are in view on both sides of the path. The path opens onto the Little League complex of a batting cage and field. Behind the yellow-capped fence in the outfield is another part of the woodland.
It was the site of the first restoration planting done by the Urban Wilds Management program of the Boston Parks Dept under the direction of Tim Smith in 1999. This is a planting of white pine, green ash, grey dogwood and hazelnut bushes.
The area between the steps going from Fisher Ave to the Little League field and the Bullfinch Condominium building has many new plantings that are well established. A path loops through entering on the edge of right field down to a plateau then left on a rugged path out to a turn-around in deep center field, up to a giant Norway maple, a view of the Little League field, and a walk back below the perimeter of the baseball field.
Another area of interest is the path that continues from the stairs to the Little League field up the hill along the edge of the woodlands to Parker Hill Avenue. This path looks down above the backstop of the Little League field. The edge of this path has been planted by dogwood, chokeberry, nannyberry and Nine bark bushes. Mature indigenous trees above the path are red oak, hackberry, black cherry and American elm.