Special to the Sun
Mayor Michelle Wu announced the official release of the new Boston Common Master Plan, a comprehensive vision for the future of the “People’s Park,” on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
The planning process incorporated the input of Boston residents and park users to create a roadmap for preservation, maintenance, and public use. The recommendations include a comprehensive redesign of the Boston Common Frog Pond, including the Tadpole Playground; expanding the Visitor’s Center; adding an accessible entrance at Shaw 54th Memorial; pedestrian improvements at the Charles Street entrance from the Public Garden; renovation of the heavily used Mayor’s Walk pathway; piloting restrooms in several locations; and better activation of the Boylston Street plaza and entrance.
“Boston Common’s gorgeous tree-lined paths and open spaces have hosted so many moments marked in history, from shaping our collective conscience to celebrating our communities,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “We’re excited to be sharing a plan that honors the Common’s history, reflects the community’s vision, and creates a space that will be more accessible, more resilient, and more inclusive for generations to come.”
The master planning process was guided by the goal of crafting an atmosphere of civic access and engagement.
In June of 2019, public engagement kicked off with an online survey and “Mini-Common” pop-up exhibits. Mini Common pop-ups were deployed in the park and across the city at MBTA stations, community events, and farmer’s markets. These pop-ups gave residents and visitors the opportunity to comment on specific areas of the Common, evaluate current programming, and recommend potential interventions and improvements. The team then held several open houses, both in person and virtually throughout 2019–2020 to gather suggestions from the community to inform potential changes. All input was incorporated in the master plan’s vision, guiding principles, goals and objectives, and recommendations.
This extensive stakeholder and public outreach captured a diverse range of voices across the city and beyond, allowing the project team to integrate the community feedback with considerations of the park’s history, current conditions, and function. This holistic process allowed the team to identify the interventions most fundamental to the use, character, health, and management of the Common now and into the future. Top recommendations in the Master Plan include clarifying park entrances, connecting and upgrading core visitor amenities, enhancing and diversifying programming, establishing park management protocols, and improving support facilities.
The Plan sets forth five principles to guide all recommendations: support and sustain a multi-functional park for the full diversity of users from all backgrounds and neighborhoods; strengthen the park’s natural, historic, cultural, and visual landscape character; expand amenities to support park visitors; improve safety, maintenance, and management of the Common; and improve the natural and physical infrastructure of the Common for quality and resilience.
With the release of the master plan, the City of Boston is asking the public to share priorities for implementation—selecting high-priority projects related to accessibility, recreational opportunities, landscape improvements, historic interpretation, restrooms, and food options—during the 45-day public comment period that ends on Nov. 30.
“The Boston Common is both a historic park and a central gathering space in our city,” said Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space. “As the “People’s Park”, we knew this process required significant community engagement and we are excited to share the Boston Common Master Plan that brought together all the feedback we received into a cohesive plan.”
“I am pleased to finally be able to share the Boston Common Master Plan, a document years in the making thanks to a partnership between the Boston Parks and Recreation Department and the Friends of the Public Garden,” said Ryan Woods, Commissioner of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department. “This Plan is the result of a robust community outreach process and ties together all the elements that make the Common such a great public space. Future park users will find improvements throughout the Common with increased flexibility, better use of space, new features, and enhanced visitor orientation and interpretation.”
“With this Boston Common Master Plan, America’s first public park will have a unified vision for evolving and adapting to meet the needs of Boston’s residents and visitors to our city as well as of the park itself,” said Liz Vizza, President of the Friends of the Public Garden. “Parks need people and people need parks. A shared space like the Boston Common is a critical place for community, civic life, and respite in our city that deserves our continued investment and attention to bring the Plan to life.”
A major tourist destination, cultural beacon, and neighborhood park, Boston Common is one of the most treasured green spaces in the world. This investment will ensure that the park’s natural, historic, cultural, and visual character is strengthened and preserved for future generations.