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3 large Boston parks slated for improvements

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Boston Common, Franklin Park, and Moakley Park upgrades intended in part to make greenswards more resilient

Three Boston parks totaling some 637 acres are slated for major improvements over the coming years. Here are the details of what’s planned or proposed for Boston Common, Moakley Park, and Franklin Park.


Franklin Park

Boston Globe via Getty Images

Boston and the nonprofit Franklin Park Coalition announced in early April the advancement of the first master plan since the 1990s for the 527-acre Franklin Park, which borders Roxbury, Dorchester, and Jamaica Plain.

To formulate the plan—which will take about 18 months—the city and the nonprofit have hired landscape architects Reed Hilderbrand and Agency Landscape + Planning, both of Cambridge, and Boston’s MASS Design Group.

The city has put aside $28 million for the changes that the plan is likely to recommend. That funding came from the sale of the Winthrop Square Garage, the city-owned site now hosting the construction of the Winthrop Center skyscraper.

As far as the changes that might come via the plan, those are still up in the air; but are likely to include public restrooms and other amenities. The plans for a master plan come on the heels of improvements to Franklin Park’s pathways and entrances.

Boston Common

Trees with their leaves changing color on either side of a pedestrian pathway. Shutterstock

Boston plans to spend $28 million of the $102 million it pocketed from the sale of the Winthrop Square Garage on a master plan for Boston Common. The idea is to beef up America’s oldest public park ahead of its anticipated 400th anniversary in 2034.

The work is due to include design and infrastructure changes to help the greensward “withstand heavy use, New England weather, and the test of time—a vital goal for this landmark park with its complex infrastructure over garages, tunnels, and supply lines,” according to a statement announcing the plan.

Mayor Marty Walsh, the Parks and Recreation Department, and the nonprofit Friends of the Public Garden announced the plan in late January. Boston-based design firm Weston & Sampson will lead the renovations.

From the announcement:

Mayor Walsh’s investment in the Common will build on a series of improvements at Tremont Street, Boylston Street, and various pathways within the park as well as significant annual investments made by the Friends for care of the park. Revitalization will consider the extraordinary level of use the Common attracts and ensure investment that preserves and celebrates this green center of downtown.

There is no timeline as yet for completion beyond the 2034 anniversary.

Moakley Park

Renderings courtesy Stoss Landscape Urbanism, One Architecture & Urbanism (ONE), and Nitsch Engineering

Boston in late March released the details of a plan for protecting Joe Moakley Park in the South Boston-Dorchester borderlands from the effects of climate change.

The 60-acre greensward is Boston’s largest waterfront park, but it’s prone to flooding. The flooding can make some of its playing fields unusable. What’s more, the flooding is only expected to worsen as sea levels around Boston rise. That means Moakley Park could end as a kind of Belgium-like gateway for regular ocean flooding that invades nearby neighborhoods.

To counter that, Stoss Landscape Urbanism​, along with partners ​One Architecture and Urbanism (ONE)​ and ​Nitsch Engineering, have come up with a multifaceted defense on behalf of the city.

That defense includes proposals such as berms and raised landscapes; chambers beneath playing fields that can hold nearly 5 million cubic feet of stormwater; porous pavement in the parking areas; offshore breakwaters; many, many more trees; and swale systems along adjacent streets to provide an additional 700,000 cubic feet of stormwater storage.

The plan would also turn a stretch of Day Boulevard along South Boston’s Carson Beach into a vehicle-free promenade. And that’s part of the plan too: Making Moakley Park not only more resilient in the face of rising sea levels, but upgrading it for park-goers.

The city has no set timeline for the plan nor funding set aside yet. Stay tuned.