As neighbors and users of Franklin Park prepare for the onslaught of cross country track races on most weekends during the fall we pause a moment to lament the lack of a Franklin Park Management Plan. In spite of years of requests from park advocates and city officials, this jewel of the Emerald Necklace has no management plan, though similar big city parks (e.g., New York City’s Central Park and Chicago’s Grant Park) find such plans indispensable.
Last year, during the heaviest rains of the season, regional track races were run, tearing up and reducing the cross country track, which covers most of the JP side of the park, to mud. Grass took 8 months to grow back.
The cross country track running up to the Bear Dens currently sports crevasses that would make a glacier blush. The Parks Department may dump crushed rock in time for the races. This is a temporary solution, sometimes not lasting as long as the track season. The gravel will wash out, clogging the water drain at the base of the hill.
New England Track and Field, which organizes the event, says it is willing to contribute to maintenance, but there is no mechanism to make sure funds donated for that purpose will not end up in general city coffers. Fees paid for the use of Franklin Park by a film company last summer were never used to restore the damage caused by crews and vehicles.
Franklin Park is our piece of Mother Earth. Surely, managing human use to properly steward this gift of nature is only reasonable.