Residents mingled at a community meeting on Feb. 16 to share their feelings about what needs to be improved and maintained in Franklin Park as part of the Imagine Boston 2030 planning process.
The meeting did not include the traditional presentation from the City and long line of concerned residents waiting to share their comments at a microphone. Instead, the meeting focused on various factors involved in planning around Franklin Park, and organizers asked residents to write their ideas on post-it notes and attach them to large poster boards. Broad topics were discussed, including history, access and connection, management, and business and economic development.
In the process, about 75 residents had a chance to meet their fellow park-goers and City officials. Representatives from Boston Transportation Department, Boston Parks and Recreation Department (BPRD), the Department of Neighborhood Services, the Office of Neighborhood Development, Zoo New England, Boston Planning and Development Agency, representatives from the Mayor’s Office, and Franklin Park rangers were among the attendees.
Natalia Urtubey, running the event on behalf of Imagine Boston 2030, said that the format of the meeting was important to the planning process.
“This isn’t a traditional meeting because we want to make sure we’re not the only ones speaking,” Urtubey said. “We want to tie our planning into the existing fabric of the community and bring in new people to the park.”
The first draft of Imagine Boston 2030 was released in November 2016, and residents can still comment and provide feedback on the draft. The next draft will be released in March or April, and the planning team hopes to release the final document in May or June. The draft can be viewed at imagine.boston.gov.
“Imagine Boston 2030 is the first master planning in Boston in 30 years,” said Christopher Cook, commissioner of BPRD. “As part of that process, the community identified Franklin Park as a priority.”
Franklin Park is Boston’s largest park: $1.7 to 1.9 million has been invested in it over the last three years, and $4.7 million will be invested in coming years.
“That’s really just the start,” Urtubey said about the investments into the park. “You have our commitment that this will be a continuing conversation.”
Karen Mauney-Brodek, president of Emerald Necklace Conservancy, said the organization is thrilled to see the City of Boston investing in Franklin Park.
“Our vision for the park is the belief that the community and neighbors around the park participate in a plan for improving the health, access and features of the park – the entrances, the trees, the paths, the lighting, the fields – all of the parts and make it welcoming and relevant to all those that visit and use it,” Mauney-Brodek said. “Franklin Park is one of a kind, and we should continue to make it so.”
Mike Brennon, member of the Franklin Park Coalition, said would like to see the rotary return to Shea Circle, instead of the recent addition of a traffic light.
Annie Lynch, a Boston resident studying landscape architecture, said she thinks the park needs to be a connection and to serve both sides of the park, from Jamaica Plain to Dorchester.
“The edges of the park need to be better integrated into the community,” Lynch said.
Ed Gaskin, executive director of Greater Grove Hall Main Streets, agreed that access needs to be improved for residents to get in and out of the park.
“A lot of people drive a long way to visit the zoo, but there’s no economic impact on the community because people come to the zoo, then get in their cars and go home,” Gaskin said. “There are about a million visits to the park each year. How can we take all that traffic and connect it to the community?”
Gaskin also said that surrounding the park, there is a high amount of subsidized housing, and that the residents don’t perceive that they have access to the park.
“Everyone thinks that Boston Common is the city’s premiere park, but Franklin Park is in the geographic center of the city,” said Urtubey.
Many residents wrote comments about better lighting, more signage and wayfinding, and paths properly maintained from snow. There were also many comments asking for tennis courts and more amenities in the park for sports and children.
The City asked for feedback about the best way to facilitate the planning process, and several comments were made asking for translation services to be provided, including from Alexandra Valdez, Jamaica Plain liaison to the Mayor’s Office, and Leila Quinn, representing City Councilor Andrea Campbell.
“Many people in my district are Latino,” Valdez said. “It’s important to assure translations for communities of color and with English as a second language.”