Notes from D4 Open Space Plan Meeting tonight

14 attendees

Rob Antonelli of DPW&P and Gene Bollinger of Weston and Sampson presenting

6:41 – Bollinger – Division of Conservation Services from the state puts out the guidelines for the open space and recreation plan.  Some of the key elements are: executive summary of some major priorities; statement of purpose; community setting; inventory of lands of conservation and recreation interest (private as well as public and nonprofit parcels); community vision (description of process; statement of goals); analysis of needs (summary of resource protection needs; summary of community needs; management needs); final, overall goals and objectives; five year action plan [the state has recently changed it to seven]; public comments; references.

As part of basic components of plan: public outreach to city departments; boards, commissions, committees; nonprofits; other land stewards; sports leagues; college community; “Friends Of …”; general public.

They will be going to each park, looking at them in a lot of ways (including ADA compliance), as well as other parcels.

The five-year plan for 2005 recommended new park master plans for certain parks (Rockwood, Cookson, Crompton, etc.); new targeted park improvements; new conservation land master planning; new targeted open space acquisitions.

When we talk about Worcester’s park and open space system, we are talking about city-wide and regional parks; neighborhood parks and playgrounds; active and passive and water-based; state parks; and athletic facilities, schools, and colleges.  As well as Other city properties/other jurisdictions; historic parks; conservation properties; linear parks and trail systems; and city sidewalk systems.

Seven properties that fall under Parks Division in D4: Cookson Field (Kendig Street), which has a master plan and they work with the neighborhood group to make improvements; Crompton Park (Canton Street), which also has a master plan; Elm Park (Newton Square and Highland Street), in the middle of $1.2 million in work on the park and have a grant for another $400k (waiting for final approval); Harry Sherry Field/South Worcester (Cambridge Street); Oread Castle Park (Castle Street), neighborhood has done a lot of work and there is money available for a master plan; University Park (Main Street), has a master plan and will begin $1.1 million in improvements on the park; Winslow and Pleasant, pocket park, passive seating area, walkways, and community garden area.

Basic Goals – improve accessibility; provide multi-generational opportunities; provide connectivity (physical assets and programs); and create economic development; protect/enhance historical assets; protect/enhance cultural assets; protect/enhance environmental assets and habitat; and maintain a variety of passive and active uses and programs.

(I think I covered some of this in the previous liveblog – this is the part of the meeting where they go over the goals and process)

There will be an online survey.  I know that’s what many of you are looking forward to.

Parks Commission will have at least one citywide meeting, as will the City Council.

Some of the questions they ask in public comments session:

What Parks and Open Spaces do you use?  What do you like?  What don’t you like?  How are the conditions?  Would you like new or refurbished facilities?  Do you make use of Recreation Programs?  How do you get to your Park or Open Space destination (by car, bicycle, foot, public transportation)?  Do you know of properties that might be purchased to provide new Park, Open Space and Recreation value?  What are the important Park and Open Space priorities?  Are there new initiatives to pursue?

Antonelli, in response to a question — As they have documents available to distribute, they will make them available online.

7:10 – recommendation to keep Channel 3 in mind.

Question about survey and how it will get out – they will try to disseminate as much as possible through neighborhood groups, etc. – they would like to get responses online as much as possible.

Question about parks with master plans – the document is complete, the implementation is not complete.  The master plans that are complete have already been vetted in public meetings, and the finished plans guide the work that is done at those facilities.

Question about Elm Park’s master plan – guidelines are to develop it in its current condition so that it is more usable and easier to maintain.  Take care of drainage issues, walkways, playground.  There is also a Mayor’s Taskforce.  Maintenance, programming, fiscal components.

Question from someone who works for the REC – in 2005 plan, there was mention of community gardens, etc.  Also, mobile farmers market at parks.

Response – they had discussed this a little at the D2 meeting as well.

Colin Novick – statewide – Chapter 61A – this does not apply to the city.  It would be interesting if the city could look into tax abatement program for people who use their land for community gardens.

Someone else mentions small orchards.

Question about visiting the parks – will the community be able to attend those site visits?

Antonelli’s response – the community will have a chance to respond to the assessments.

Bollinger – they would appreciate people who know the sites well to review the assessment after it’s initially written.

Comment about small vacant lots to be turned into community areas.

Antonelli would like them to provide a list of those areas as possibilities for acquisition.

Question – have they done that in the past?

Antonelli – in the previous process, if someone saw a property they thought was interesting, they identified it and put it on a list of possible properties to acquire.

Martha Assefa, question – WBDC and Tim working on a proposal about the vacant properties, and there was a proposal to do something with foreclosed land for community gardens and nothing is public about this yet.

7:24 – REC – when Joe O’Brien was mayor, they proposed that land be sold to a land trust be sold for community gardens and they did it with two properties that are now community gardens.

Dante Comparetto, comment – would like to see more greenways in Worcester.  Opportunities to do that in Main South and even on Pleasant Street.  For the purpose of economic development and more walkable neighborhoods.  Have trees lining the sidewalks.

Antonelli – they will look to include sidewalks and trees in the plan.  They are a connection that gets you from home to facility, from facility to facility; also, large endeavor to plant trees (right tree, right place) with Worcester Tree Initiative.  $3 million for new plantings.

Peggy – question – could we have the forestry plan as part of this?

Antonelli – will not go into that piece, but will mention that as part of plan.  We have a forestry policy, not a plan.

Peggy – could suggest we have a plan.

Also, discussion of complete streets approach.

Question about Elm Park and tree replanting – Antonelli responds that tree planting is not in initial phase.  This phase is walkway upgrades (partial), lighting, playground improvements, edgework on the meres.  As they do further development, they will begin including additional tree plantings where appropriate.

Colin – greenways – for D4 – if you followed waterways, could do from Beaver to Cambridge, following along Beaver Brook/Kettle Brook.  Land behind WHA and Super Chinese Buffet, behind Rotmans, could partner with St John’s Cemetery.  In terms of parcels, around Cookson Field, a number of vacant lots adjacent that could be good for expansion.

7:33 – Casey – as we talk about open space, D4 is lacking in open space (including backyards), need to preserve open space we do have.

Casey – question about basic goals came across as goals.

Bollinger – priorities are actual projects or initiatives that were identified.  We will be identifying a laundry list of needs, and then will find out how community prioritizes those needs.  For instance, no soccer field in this district.

Colin – the last time they did an open space plan for D4, Pleasant and Winslow was identified as a major priority, and that was accomplished.  Identify a good, clear goal.

Gerry Powers – when you’re talking about large water space and open space, within quarter mile in Coes. Most people in D4 would get more benefit from Coes than D5.

Colin – also worth noting that your district councilor can advocate for things in your district.

Antonelli – also connect parcels together.  When they were in D3, people can walk from their side of Lake Park past 290 (D2).

7:40 – Martha – a lot of kids play at basketball court on Pleasant but would like more space.

Another question – in the master plans for the parks they have, what types of security do they have in place (vandalism, etc.)?

Antonelli – Elm and University: identified that they wanted to install security cameras.  Some parks have wooden barriers to limit vehicular access.  At Elm, security cameras on light poles at a later phase.  [Siemens is the consultant on security cameras.]

Q: Would Elm Park be well-lit?

Antonelli: at the end of this, Elm Park would have 70 fixtures.  Also be able to dim those if able to.

Karen – connections among parks, and connections through parks.  Off road ways to get to places of other value.

For example, Beaver Brook – walk to Big Y.

Peggy – Park Ave keeps us disconnected.  Some way in the plan to get over these barriers?

Karen – Worcester Regional Mobility Study had plans for Webster Square.

Colin recommends buying the Friendly’s, turning it into a green space, and making a signalized crossing area there.

Peggy – need for a dog park.  Do we set up another task force to assess needs for dog park?

Colin – D4 has more people who are traveling by bikes.  Few facilities for bike lanes.  Chandler St and Main St – people hopping off sidewalk and side shoulder.  It would be great to figure out how to do bike traffic in a safe way.

Casey – would also like to see places to lock up bikes.

Also mentions railroad tracks as boundary.

She would like to come up with a list of basic things that every park in the city should have.  She mentions lights as an example

Response from Antonelli – there are some people who don’t like lights.  All of our sites are pretty site-specific (because of history, function, topography, etc.).

Colin – portion of D4 that used to be wetland and still has flooding issues.  Could Blackstone Canal take some of Wyman-Gordon (or other abandoned sites) as retention basin?

Joe – there was another map previously that showed all open space – the map we’re looking at now is just Parks land, not even conservation.

Antonelli – he’s worked on this two times previously.  This time, they could not do enough work to have consistent document including all land.  They do not have Conservation Commission lands on that yet.  They have met with GIS people and will gather that information now.  They will also meet with Colin for GWLT component.  So at future meetings, they should have those on the maps.

Joe – possible acquisitions – can we provide feedback through this forum for possible conservation commission acquisitions work as well?

Antonelli – yes.  They would want to know that for the possible targeted acquisition.

Question – is there an open space regulation – when developers put in houses, are there regulations about how much open space there should be?

Antonelli – not really.  Zoning is probably more stringent on parking lots than house building.  They can put something in the document about changes to zoning bylaws.  But if you go down that road, because the rules would need to be well-defined.

Colin – if you incentivized it in some way, that would be the better way to drive it.

Gerry – bike riding – TIP money from Clark (sorry, not understanding this) – shouldn’t we focus on that (connectivity)?

Casey – there is a bike path constructed soon that will reconnect Hammond to Kilby Street (on Tainter St).  Have heard from neighbors that need to further connect to University Park.

Peggy – Barbara Haller sent some questions.

Comparison of open space by district – this can be done.

Comparison of recreational space by district – ditto.

Number, type, and residency – organized teams – will need this question clarified.

Number of dollars spent by district, unfunded projects in the pipeline.

Martha – intersection between May and Park Avenue – a lot of bikers killed and hurt in that area.

Colin –highlight segment 7 of Blackstone Bikeway from Crompton to City Hall.  Keep this in mind as a spine that will someday come to the district and will want to link to that.

Casey – questions about inventory of Castle Park for master planning.

Gerry – Wednesday night hearing on McKeon Road sidewalk at Hogan Campus Center.

Casey – does every park have its own budget?

No – Colin notes that the citizens have to advocate for this at budget time.

Karen – state’s interest in equitable access.  Needs to be more of a demonstration of that in the plan.

Karen – looking at national examples of public/private partnerships.  Like Austin TX.

Casey – “closing” of parks – is there a conversation about the closing of parks.

Antonelli – there has been no discussion of this.

Gerry Powers – about the security issues: cameras can work in darkness.  The issue of maintenance in the parks: because the leagues maintain their own fields, it weighs the benefits of the city to have more of those facility.  The “open space” ones don’t get taken care of and are probably more expensive for the city.

Antonelli – not necessarily.  Majority of little leagues maintain, some of the Babe Ruth fields do as well.  Rectangular sports – not really.  Vikings maintain the football field.

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