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Change the Culture and the Rest Will Follow: Park Departments and Equity

If a Google search of parks and equity was your only measure of who is taking on this issue, it would seem that New York is miles ahead of other cities, as it appears over and over in the search results. But in fact, New York is one of many major cities in the US focusing on the equity issue as best as they can.

Norm Krumholz, Cleveland city planner in the 1970s, was one of the first to define “equity planning,” which he described this way: “You keep your eye on who gets helped and who gets hurt and for the people who usually get hurt – you try to make sure they don’t get hurt as bad.”

Who gets helped and who gets hurt in a city may best be seen through the lens of our public parks – a potent symbol of a city’s equity balance.  In this ongoing struggle, two park agencies, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and Portland (OR) Parks and Recreation, have hired staff specifically to address equity.  Art Hendricks is the Equity and Inclusion Director for Portland Parks & Recreation, and Michelle Kellogg is the Equity and Inclusion Project Manager for MPRB.  Continue reading

March’s Frontline Park: Franklin Park

At 527 acres, Franklin Park is the largest greenspace in Boston, boasting a 220-acre forest, an 18-hole golf course, the regional zoo, tennis and basketball courts, baseball diamonds, a cricket pitch, miles of woodland trails, picnic areas, and playgrounds. It is the only park in Boston where one can bicycle and barbecue. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Franklin Park is the “jewel” of the Emerald Necklace, located in the geographic heart of the city and surrounded by Boston’s most diverse neighborhoods.

Dancing in Franklin Park

The park has hundreds of daily visitors, and thousands who come for cultural festivals and sporting events and is viewed by the city police department as one of the safest parks in the Boston. However, Franklin Park’s reputation as a popular community destination was shaken when, in late fall 2011, a woman walking through Franklin Park with her grandchild on a midweek afternoon was attacked, a victim of random violence. Some golfers in the area heard the woman’s cries for help and ran off her attacker, but the evening news seemed to confirm the worst fears of suburban denizens: urban parks are not safe. Regulars of the park had spent many years convincing their friends, neighbors, and colleagues of the beauty and safety of the area, and with one unlikely event, all that work could have been undone.

Three nights later, 200 people from the surrounding communities gathered with flashlights in hand to traverse a 2.5 mile path around the park in the dark. The statement was clear: people who used the park would not be scared away from their favorite place in Boston. Neighborhood organizations have now taken up park safety in their regular meetings with local police and buddy system walking groups have formed.

Franklin Park will be featured on CPA’s homepage through the end of March.

The “Frontline Parks” program is made possible with generous support from DuMor, Inc. and PlayCore.