Meet Me in Medford | Reggie Graham, Parks Commission Chair
by 4Squares Residential Group in Partnership with Judi 411
To start the new year with a healthy look back, and forward, the 4Squares Residential Group spoke with Reggie Graham, third-generation Medford resident and Chair of the Medford Parks Commission. Reggie took us down memory lane of his experience growing up in Medford and how the parks played an integral part in his childhood, plus he gave us a heads up for what to expect from our city's parks & and green spaces in the future.
You're a third-generation West Medford resident. Tell me about your experience growing up in Medford.
I grew up in West Medford, close to Dugger Park, bordering the Mystic River. We grew up with grandparents, parents and children living in the neighborhood and we were a close- knit community. I've always enjoyed the people and camaraderie and the closeness of the people. The community's bedrocks, such as the Baptist Church, the West Medford Community Center, and St. Raphael's Church, helped maintain strong ties in the community.
What folks newer to Medford may not know is that this area was initially a bit of an isolated territory. Originally deemed swampland, the river overflowed quite a bit and flooded the area. When I was about six or seven years old, they dredged the river and made it wider, which lessened the flooding and made it more desirable from a real estate perspective, and we saw more homes built, and the neighborhood expanded. While the neighborhood was primarily a Black neighborhood when I was growing up, the shift in real estate values here has made the area more desirable, and it's a more diverse neighborhood now while keeping that cohesion I remember from growing up.
What do you remember most fondly about your youth in Medford?
When we were young, we had a Parks program in the summertime where all the parks would have specific recreational sports that we played -- baseball, basketball, football – each neighborhood park held sports for the kids in that neighborhood. Each park had its own team, and they competed against one another.
At the junior high level --- what we'd call middle school now – we had the Roberts, the Lincoln, and the Hobbs Junior Highs, where basketball took place in the winter. By high school, you'd seen these people in these various incarnations, you know, whether they played baseball and were good pitchers, or could hit well, or when you played football, you knew who the good running backs were.
But at the high school level, you weren't adversaries anymore. You were teammates, working together to win. That type of camaraderie was terrific. Even though there were separate areas of the city, the parks played a big part in keeping youth occupied, busy, integrated with their neighbors, and so on.
How about life after graduation?
My graduating class was the last to graduate from the old Medford High School on Forest Street. After high school, I attended Tufts University and after that, spent several years overseas playing basketball. After a short time in Somerville, I returned to Medford, I returned to Medford to live and raise a family back in my old neighborhood. And now, as the Chair of the Medford Parks Commission, I'm back working in the parks again. We oversee the maintenance and upkeep of the city's parks as well as Wright's Pond and the Tufts Community Pool. Our role is to consider permits and anything in regard to the community green space. For example, we oversaw the Krystal Campbell Memorial near City Hall. We also serve as the eyes and ears for the community, offering input into park development.
What are some updates the community can look forward to regarding community parks? There have been updates to Harris Park, including a water sprinkler park, and McNally Park on Webster Street has experienced a makeover. Is there anything else on the horizon?
There is an ambitious plan in the works for Carr Park, including a newer basketball court and a dog park, but with budget constraints, those plans are in the longer term. One element I'd like to see at Carr Park would be on-site facilities, mainly since so many baseball games occur there, but that's also an issue for other parks in the city. I attend softball games in various towns across the state, and I see how each one is maintained a little differently, mainly self-contained and maintenance-free/eco-friendly ones. I've provided examples of solutions that could work in Medford, but it's a matter of budget, which is a struggle for most communities right now.
In the meantime, we have 26 active parks and eight or nine passive parks for residents to enjoy. We're also lucky in that we have excellent transportation. Several bus lines are running through the city, from one side to the other, and we have the Orange line in Wellington, the Red Line in Davis Square, not far from West Medford, and of course, the Green Line Extension coming to Tufts. If you live anywhere in Medford, you can get around.
Photos: Old Medford High School, on Forest Street; Dugger Park in West Medford, new plans for Carr Park.
What are other aspects of Medford that you enjoy? What would you tell someone considering a move to Medford?
Medford has a great community base with all the city attributes without being in the middle of a big city. You can go out and walk down the street, walk your dog and not have to look over your shoulder, and you don't have to duck and dodge cars and bikes the way you would in Downtown Boston. While the cost of living here has increased, Medford remains one of those places where you can raise a family and be comfortable.
The schools here are good, and we are distinct in that our high school has a vocational program that serves as a magnet for other communities. We promote curriculum both academically and from a trades perspective. Not all communities have that. You know, we have a good college curriculum at the high school and support a vocational track.
There are a vast number of restaurants and small businesses that cater to various tastes. Raso's on Mystic Avenue, or Carroll's in the Square. My favorites include Bob's Food on Main Street and Ronnie's on Salem.
You can go to and involve yourself with so many things in Medford. Chevalier Auditorium has concerts featuring various artists, comedians and plays. There is also Medford Recreation that resides in the Old Gene Mack Gym. They provide Recreational programs that play out in the various parks, Tufts Pool, and Wrights Pond throughout the year for all ages.There's not a whole lot more you can ask for here.
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