Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sunday’s Boston Globe commemorated the 150th anniversary of Frederick Law Olmsted’s plans for Yosemite Valley. Olmsted, who designed Central Park and Boston's Emerald Necklace, advocated for accessibility and stewardship of nature for the benefit of all.

From Courtney Humphries' article:

Today we think of parks largely as recreational spaces and nature preserves, but in the 19th century they had a social and political mission. Government’s duty, Olmsted wrote, was to protect individual citizens’ “pursuit of happiness.” Olmsted had a longstanding belief that nature had a profound effect on people’s psychology — that it gave people pleasure and increased their capacity for happiness. But access to nature and recreation is “a monopoly, in a very peculiar manner, of a very few very rich people,” he wrote. “The great mass of society, including those to whom it would be of the greatest benefit, is excluded from it.”

This thinking led to putting Blue Hills, Middlesex Fells, and Revere Beach under state protection for public use.

Olmstead’s ideas are still valid. His “perceptions about the role of nature in well-being are still alive in a growing body of public health research," and

the Olmstedian notion of accessibility is finding a new life in people like Rebecca Stanfield McCown, acting director of the NPS Stewardship Institute in Vermont. She’s helping lead an initiative called the Urban Agenda, which aims to make better use of the National Park Service’s significant network of urban parks as a gateway into the entire system.

“If we’re not making those connections with people at home, then we’re going to be losing out on a generation of supporters and advocates for wilderness preservation,” Stanfield says. “We need to be relevant to their daily lives and not just their vacations.”

Thanks to Ms. Humphries for reminding us of the intrinsic value of green space.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Petition to Preserve the Green Space at Lincoln Park

Somerville residents are gathering signatures on a petition to prevent artificial turf from being installed on Lincoln Park. The text is below. To sign the petition, or learn more, please contact: 

Lumina Gershfield Cordova

A Petition to Preserve the Green Space at Lincoln Park - August 2015

The undersigned, as neighbors of Lincoln Park, parents of youth athletes, parents of Argenziano students, and residents of Somerville, are writing to oppose the installation of a synthetic turf athletic field in Lincoln Park, and instead request that the fields remain as grass turf. We believe that synthetic turf fields will change the character of the park and neighborhood in undesirable ways. We believe that the large number of permitted events at Lincoln Park, in the absence of a comprehensive City-wide strategy to meet current and future demand for field space, creates the appearance of a need for a synthetic turf field at Lincoln Park that has not been justified.

In particular, we believe that if a synthetic turf field is installed, the following will occur:

1. It will dramatically change the Park’s character - Lincoln Park will lose the balance of uses that
Somerville residents have enjoyed for the park’s 120-year history. Many different people – young
athletes, picnickers, toddlers, teen and adult basketball players, dog walkers, and many others – can use the park together. With the installation of a synthetic turf field, the park will become a defacto athletic facility and programming at the field will increase further, crowding out the school and community uses that give this park a unique and vibrant character.

2. There will be negative impacts on the neighborhood - Dawn to dusk athletic events will change the
surrounding neighborhood, turning one of the most densely packed and functional neighborhoods into a parking lot for an athletic facility. We feel there are an inequitable number of uses at Lincoln Park and the City has not adequately explored alternatives to the proposed artificial turf field, including reallocating uses to the other parks in the City.

3. There will be possible health risks – Regular and extended play by school children, young athletes, and residents on synthetic turf may expose them to potential health risks. While the verdict is out on the chronic health risks associated with the infill materials that are typically used on synthetic turf fields, we do not want Somerville’s children to become unwitting participants in an epidemiological study. With regard to acute health concerns, the higher temperatures on synthetic turf compared to natural grass are well documented. Installing synthetic turf poses a greater risk of heat stress to the athletes and school children that play on it during the hotter times of the day. Synthetic turf fields also contributes to the “heat island” effect in a highly urbanized area, thus contributing to global warming. There are also valid arguments to be made that synthetic turf will result in increased incidence of skin cuts and abrasions and other impact injuries. The environmental fate and potential ecological risks associated with the use of infill materials also warrant additional consideration.

4. There will be an irretrievable loss of open space and natural park land - If we lose the grass, we will lose one of the City’s largest remaining green open spaces. While there is always a temptation to fill up spaces like this one with buildings or facilities, this is not a decision that a City as densely developed as Somerville should be making lightly, especially in light of future development and growth in Union Square. Furthermore, synthetic turf fields are not consistent with the Community Preservation Act, which specifically precludes use of CPA funds to acquire artificial turf for athletic fields.

Please preserve this amazing neighborhood and city asset for Somerville’s current and future residents.