Heritage, Volume 8, Number 3, Summer 1990 Page: 25
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Left: Historic plan for Buttonwood Park, New Bedford, Massachusetts. Preliminary plan by Olmsted, Olmsted, and Eliot, 1895, featuring a large, central pond and
surrounding meadow with carriage roads encircling the park and separated from a series of interior pedestrian paths. This plan was never entirely implemented and
remains today as one of the city's most heavily used and most popular parks in its system of twenty-eight parks. Right: Plan of existing conditions in Buttonwood
Park, New Bedford. All photos courtesy of Auburn University Architecture Department.
Lincoln, a dedicated late nineteenth-century park commissioner.
Purchased in 1854, Elm Park functioned as a "new common," and
Worcester joined Hartford and New York as the first cities in the
nation to have public parks purchased with public funds.
Springfield's Forest Park, over 730 acres of woods and streams, had
its beginnings in the early 1880s when a local paper manufacturer
who served also as a park commissioner gave 65 acres toward the
establishment of a major city park. Donations of land by other
prominent Springfield residents created an arboretum, wildlife
preserve, and recreation area.
In carrying out the state legislature's mandate, the Olmsted
Program held public meetings in each designated community with
its teams of master planners both to discuss the value of historic
parks and to seek public input into the long-range plans. To
demonstrate that the plans could be accomplished, the Program
undertook "Early Action" projects in each park. In Fall River, the
planting edge of Olmsted's 1871 Upper Section in Kennedy Park
was reestablished with the planting of new street trees; in Boston,
dead trees and underbrush were removed in the Emerald Necklace;
and in Brockton, a model "parkway" for pedestrians and joggers was
established along one of Field Park's lovely lakes. These examples
were successful demonstrations of the projects' potential as
established by the master plans. Continued state funding for the
Program was contingent upon municipal approval of and
continuing adherence to the master plans. In return for the state's
funds, the cities agreed to maintain the improvements for their
useful life and to make no changes in the parks not in keeping with
the master plans. Throughout the master planning process, the
Program initiated a public education effort, intending to give the
plans to local constituencies who would form "Friends' Groups."
These "Friends" would serve the parks as ongoing managers, fund
raisers, political advocates, and public sponsors. Modeled after the
groups who have had success in the rehabilitation of Central Park
in New York City and Prospect Park in Brooklyn, the "Friends"
were to be the arbiters and proponents of the plans. The Friends of
Buttonwood Park in New Bedford were an Outstanding model of
what public commitment can mean to parks rehabilitation. Citizens
of New Bedford were able to overcome an initial setback, and
recover public confidence in the plans for Buttonwood, the city's
largest and most heavily used park. Area citizens were initially
angered by the Program's Early Action proposal to remove street
trees along one of the park's boundaries. The Program advised dead
tree removal; the residents believed the trees to be healthy.
Through public education, a group of Friends evolved from those
who had opposed the tree removal at the outset of the Program. In
its 1988 celebration of the completion of phase one in
Buttonwood, the Friends and citizens of New Bedford became the
first Olmsted Program community to see their park partially
revitalized. New Bedford now faces the challenge of plan
implementation without the funding of the state and support of the
Olmsted Program. In several other Program communities, Friends
groups have formed, and the task of fund raising for local projects
is under way. The Massachusetts public park movement is now
shifting from a dependence on state moneys to local funding
Overcoming a negative public image and combating overuse
are two problems faced by many of America's old urban parks, and
the Olmsted Program's parks were no exception. Examples from
the Program illustrate these dilemmas and demonstrate how the
planning and redesign of historic parks can positively address these
problems. Boston's Franklin Park is often considered to be one of
Olmsted's great triad of "country parks" along with Central Park
and Prospect Park. The landscape architect's design for Franklin
Park demonstrates his philosophy of "the restorative power of
pastoral scenery." Olmsted divided the Park into a "Country Park"
exclusively for passive activities and the "Ante Park" for active
recreation. Franklin Park is today a 520-acre, multi-use park that
has undergone dramatic change and decline. While much of the
original 1885 design remains intact, subsequent additions,
involving a zoo, stadium, and hospital consumed much of the
park's landscape. The park has been the target of vandals and
arsonists, a product of decades of public neglect and physical
deterioration. In the 1970s a local group, the Franklin Park
Coalition, attempted to reverse the negative public image that had
developed. The Coalition closed some roads to traffic and began a
program of improvements to draw people back to the park.
A user analysis of Franklin Park for the Olmsted Program's
master planning process was conducted recently throughout the
Park. While the study recognized that changing a park's image as
an unsafe and poorly maintained place is a slow process, results of
the survey of both users and non-users of the Park are encouraging.
A majority of those questioned-72 per cent said "they had
HERITAGE * SUMMER 1990 25
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 3, Summer 1990, periodical, Summer 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45427/m1/25/: accessed September 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.