A second open house regarding the Boston Common Master Plan was held on Jan. 15 at the Josiah Quincy Upper School, where design and engineering firm Weston & Sampson presented the schedule and process for the project, as well as more concrete goals. Additionally, the public was invited to split into breakout groups to discuss what they would like to see in each area of the park.
Gene Bolinger of Weston & Sampson said the Master Plan is intended to be a 15-month process, as they “don’t want to take too much time for people to see meaningful change on the Boston Common.”
Weston and Sampson, along with other stakeholders such as the Boston Parks Department and the Friends of the Public Garden, have been working on a robust public engagement process for the Master Plan, as they are very interested in making this a true “people’s park.” So far 1,500 people have attended mini pop-up sessions across the city to provide feedback, and more than 5,500 people have shared their thoughts and suggestions about the park, Bolinger said. He said that many people requested more trees, more free events, a fenced-in dog park, a bigger playground, and better food options, among many other things.
“People have been amazingly generous so far about contributing their thoughts and ideas about the Boston Common,” Bolinger said. “This public engagement process is not done tonight. It’s going to continue on.”
Bolinger said that around this summer, the Master Plan document should be done, and potential early action projects and improvements could begin as early as this calendar year.
“The project team has spent a fair bit of time talking about guiding principles and goals and objectives,” he said.
Some of the guiding principles for the Master Plan include that the park means “many things to all people,” as it is a “critical outlet for surrounding neighborhoods” who use it as their backyards as well as larger events, Bolinger said.
Additionally, the Boston Common is used as a major commuter route, and Weston & Sampson is looking at developing a plan that will continue to accommodate people who move through the park in many ways on a daily basis. Bolinger said that of the 4,500 people who responded to the online survey, over 80 percent of them said they use the Common as a means of commuting.
He added that they also want to recognize the people who come to the Common as a destination. “We’re trying to balance respect for nature and history with enhancements and improvements for this century,” Bolinger said.
Balancing park use and care is another guiding principle for the Master Plan, as Weston & Sampson wants to “strike the right balance of intensity of use and care and maintenance,” he said. Hand in-hand with that is championing resiling strategies, which can help manage climate change.
Liza Meyer, Chief Landscape Architect for the City of Boston, talked about some of the project goals as this process moves forward. Se said that a main goal is to “support and sustain a multi-functional park for a variety of users.” Additionally, the team hopes to use this process to inform projects into the future, strengthen the park’s character, improve the natural and physical infrastructure, expand amenities, and improve safety, maintenance, and management of the park.
Cheri Ruane of Weston & Sampson talked about the six geographical areas that they have broken the Common into, which include the Parade Ground Zone above the Boston Common Parking Garage, the Frog Pond Zone, the Park Street Area, the Visitor Information Center/Parkman Bandstand, the Boylston Street area, and the athletic field area. Each of these zones are used for different purposes in the Common, and Weston & Sampson is really looking for feedback about what people like about each of the zones, and was they would like to see moving forward.
In areas like the Frog Pond Zone, the project team is curious as to how people want to see the Frog Pond used, as the infrastructure for the skating rink is starting to fail. The area also includes the Tadpole Playground, and the team wants to know if people think one playground is enough, or if the park should include multiple playgrounds. In the Park Street area, the team hopes to come up with a plan that will move the upwards of 25,000 people who travel through the afea in the most efficient way, and also create an inclusive means of egress to the Shaw Memorial, as it is currently only accessible by stairs from inside the park.
The team is welcoming suggestions and ideas for every zone of the park and is working to incorporate these suggestions into the Master Plan, which will be used to create the improvements with the $23 million that has been set aside for capital improvements to the park.
For more information on the Master Plan, visit bostoncommonmasterplan.com.