Fernald’s Future?

by Chris Wangler

June 27, 2022

Will the public be allowed back on the Fernald property before the 10-year anniversary of the acquisition in 2014? 

After years of delays and false starts, it’s looking promising as a recreation plan for the sprawling property moves forward.

“Soon we’re going to open a lot of the areas of Fernald,” said Mayor Jeannette McCarthy during a Women in Business event hosted by the Waltham Chamber recently.

The mayor did not offer a timeline, but she showed photos of work the city has done to daylight a wetland where several Fernald cottages once stood, not far from the National Archives.


The cottages were demolished and engineers created a pond and drainage plan. “They were able to daylight that pond and the stream,” the mayor said. 

The work is part of an ambitious plan to develop Parcel 1 near Trapelo Road into a recreation area that could resemble Nara Park in Acton.

Earlier this year, at the mayor’s request, the city council transferred more than 119 acres of Fernald land to the Waltham Recreation Department.

Recreation director Nick Abruzzi could not be reached for comment, but the plan includes universal playground facilities to ensure access for those with disabilities.

To prepare the land, 25 buildings have been knocked down, including the Shriver Center. Mayor McCarthy also requested $200,000 to have vegetation and trees cleared from the overgrown property.

The City of Waltham acquired the sprawling Fernald property from the state in 2014 for $3.7 million. 

While the price for roughly 190 acres of prime real estate seemed dirt cheap at the time, use restrictions on certain parts of the property have limited city plans for Fernald.


The delays have allowed vandals to trespass, damage buildings and set arson blazes, such as this 2016 fire.

Pond / wetland photos: Colette Casey-Brenner / The City of Waltham