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Olmsted Park and Potomac River Waterfront Park Selected as “Frontline Parks”

Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes two Frontline Parks to promote inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation and stewardship across the country in the face of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures and urban neighborhood decay.

March’s selections celebrate historic design and new innovations.

Olmsted Park, Brookline, Mass. Credit: Brookline Parks and Open Space Division.

Depending upon where you live in the United States, the culture of parks and open space can vary according to when the system was established and who planned it. It is not unusual to hear envy for those parks and systems designed by Frederick Law Olmsted or Daniel Burnham. Indeed, many of these parks were constructed before the cities that now surround them, shaping urban form in profound ways. Similarly, it is not unusual to hear the stewards of those legendary parks and systems struggle with how to make those spaces relevant for contemporary users. New parks have an advantage in embracing the most current engineering and technologies from the outset, rather than a retrofit. This month’s featured parks demonstrate how both old and new parks achieve relevance in cities today.

Olmsted Park in Brookline, Massachusetts began construction in 1890. As a gem in Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace in Boston, the namesake park includes three ponds and a meandering stream that were, at that time, engineered solutions to the problematic Muddy River. Olmsted linked the man-made improvements with natural formations, creating a scenic ribbon of groves, lawns, and water features. Thanks to the hard work of the Brookline Parks and Open Space division and its four partners, the historic landscape has been restored with new plantings, better views, and easier access. Click here to read more.

Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail, Oxon Hill, Md. Credit: Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Nearly 120 years later, the Potomac River Waterfront Park in Oxon Hill, Maryland opened in 2009. The site along the Potomac River features a landscaped superstructure – a deck over I-95 that links trail systems in Maryland and Virginia via a connection to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the Potomac River. It also features a unique solution to moving trail users from the ground to the deck by means of a helix of “foamed concrete.” In addition to the trail opportunities, the park features a panoramic view of Washington, D.C. and its environs. As you can imagine, this kind of project includes many local, state, and federal partners committed to creating 21st century park solutions. Read more.

Frontline Parks is generously supported by DuMor, Inc. and PlayCore.

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