Franklin Park Action Plan Released
Mayor Michelle Wu today announced the release of the new Franklin Park Action Plan. The Action Plan is a comprehensive vision for the future of the 527-acre park, widely considered landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted's crowning achievement and the conclusion of a trilogy of great parks that includes Manhattan's Central Park and Brooklyn's Prospect Park.
With the release of the plan, the City of Boston is asking the public to share their perspectives on plan implementation by identifying community priorities among a slate of projects related to restoration of historic structures, improved circulation throughout the park for all transportation modes, dedicated spaces for cultural and recreational opportunities, and ecological considerations. The plan is now available on the Franklin Park Action Plan website along with a form to capture feedback during the 60-day comment period that ends on February 10, 2023.
Highlights of the plan’s recommendations include restoring and activating the Bear Dens with new uses; reintroducing the Elma Lewis Playhouse to the Overlook with a new stage, restrooms, and seating; upgrading active spaces like trails, play areas, athletic fields, and picnic sites; creating a welcoming “front porch” for the Blue Hill Avenue entrance at Peabody Circle with terraced seating; and rehabilitating the landscape of the park by removing invasive plants, cutting back vegetation to reveal the park’s sweeping vistas, and planting new native species and trees.
“Franklin Park is a treasured green space for our Boston residents and has played a crucial part in bringing our communities and neighborhoods together across generations,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “With this Action Plan, residents and park users will have the opportunity to help the City shape the future of the park and to create a roadmap for preservation, maintenance, and public use of Olmsted’s historic landscape.”
The themes addressed in the park’s original design are paramount to the Franklin Park Action Plan. These include historical and cultural significance, access to open space, public health benefits, and opportunities for nurturing community relationships.
“Our goal throughout the process has been to understand past planning efforts, learn what is (and isn’t) working in the park, and what park users would like to see in the future,” said Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space for the City of Boston. “With this new funding we’re able to abandon the piecemeal approach and make a real difference for the park and the people who love it.”
Franklin Park has a long history of community stewardship and activism despite decades of underinvestment in the park. The Action Plan provides a vision for proactive investment in Franklin Park to restore landscape cohesion, support uses desired by the community, and keep the park accessible and welcoming to its neighbors. The plan’s scope covers park maintenance and management as well as cultural and recreational programming. The $28 million investment includes $23 million in capital funding and a $5 million maintenance trust that was created in 2018. Earnings from the trust can be applied to maintenance expenses related to the park.
“We see this plan as a generational opportunity to fund needed maintenance and realize the park’s full potential, and at the same time, protect and enhance the environmental and public health benefits of this beloved green space,” said Ryan Woods, Commissioner of Parks and Recreation. “We remain committed to developing creative new opportunities for events, activities, and recreation—in partnership with the Franklin Park Coalition, Emerald Necklace Conservancy, and other local organizations.”
The engagement process emphasized collaborating with neighboring residents and park users, uncovering rich and detailed information about the park’s historical past and present ecology, working with local community groups, and leveraging the expertise of a team of project managers, landscape architects, planners, ecologists, and community engagement specialists. The City of Boston Parks and Recreation Department, supported by design firm Reed Hilderbrand, Agency Landscape + Planning and MASS Design Group, met with residents, community organizations, and local stakeholder groups in the adjacent neighborhoods of Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Roslindale, and Roxbury. Over 26,000 individuals engaged in the planning process with more than 8,000 people providing direct input. Outreach included flyers in the community, signage in the park, email, direct mail, popup events, door-to-door canvassing, community workshops, neighborhood meetings, and communications with over 150 local organizations.
"The Franklin Park Coalition is excited to be a part of this release of the Franklin Park Action Plan. This plan is the result of the hard work of the Boston Parks Department and the City of Boston, in collaboration with other community groups and organizations. We have been involved from its inception and will continue to monitor its implementation, as we strive to make Franklin Park a destination for all," said Rickie Thompson, President of the Franklin Park Coalition. "We believe that activity and community involvement brings more people into the park to enjoy. That's why we are particularly interested in the restoration of the Overlook Ruins, the original site of the Playhouse in the Park created by Elma Lewis In 1966. We look forward to all of the wonderful improvements that the plan proposes."
“We rediscovered Franklin Park through the memories and voices of the community,” said John Kett, managing principal of Reed Hilderbrand. “We have always understood this place to be of cultural consequence, because of the Olmsted legacy. But there’s more to this place, more stories, more experiences—Franklin Park has meant so much to Bostonians. The Action Plan recognizes them and seeks to follow their lead in guiding future investments to bring the park into the twenty-first century.”
Over the course of the three-year planning process, community members and park stakeholders identified a long list of needs and wishes for the park. Among the top community priorities were: elevating the standard of care across the park, restoration of and improvements to The Bear Dens, The Overlook, Peabody Circle, and Ellicottdale, as well as parkwide upgrades to lighting, drainage, signage, and circulation. Park improvements and enhanced programming have already begun with funding from the Franklin Park Endowment Trust and will be complemented with expanded capital improvements focused on community priorities.
For more information or to access the public comment form, visit the Franklin Park Action Plan website.