Heritage, Volume 8, Number 3, Summer 1990 Page: 26
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Franklin Park, Boston, historic view toward Scarborough Pond. Sheep and shepherd
"mowing" the meadow. This historic view is intruded upon today by a high-rise hospital.
noticed changes over the last several years and four-fifths of these
people described these changes as positive; a few people said they
had recently started using the park again, indicating an improved
image and sense of safety."2 The study suggests that park plans
should develop a park-wide "system" of interpretive information,
including signs and graphics that orient people spatially and inform
them of a park's history and its use over time.3 In both the Emerald
Necklace Parks and Franklin Park, the Boston Park Department's
Park Ranger Program is a popular feature. Rangers offer walking
tours for all ages, with special activities for children. The Program
and supervision the Rangers provide seem to make people feel safe,
which contributes to an improved image.
The Franklin Park user study also revealed information about
current park use. Telephone surveys and observations revealed
that the five most important activities in the park, accounting for
70 per cent of the park's use, are picnicking, walking, sitting,
relaxation, children playing, and sitting in a car. These results
suggest that park use should be carefully considered in park
The broad interest and occurrence of passive
recreational activities means that this type of use
should be a strong influence in park planning. This
emphasis suggests some strong parallels with
Olmsted's original design, and may help make a
stronger case for historic preservation. On the other
hand, active recreation is also an important part of the
public use of this park. The research results indicate
that improvements and repairs to ball fields, the golf
course, tennis and basketball courts may be
warranted, but should be done in a way which does not
undermine the use of a park by a public seeking
relaxation and passive experience.4
The Olmsted Program's planning effort for Buttonwood Park in
New Bedford is another demonstration of the compatibility of
historic preservation and contemporary uses. Buttonwood is the
city's largest, multi-use park; it is also the most heavily used of the
community's twenty-eight parks and playgrounds. The park
26 HERITAGE * SUMMER 1990
contains a number of facilities that have been added to the 97-acre
park over the past century including tennis and basketball courts,
ball fields, buildings, a bandshell, monuments, and parking lots.
Like many urban parks, Buttonwood suffers from the wide range of
diverse and competing uses within its limited space; demand for use
is most intense at the park's center. The master planning team
addressed a list of problems caused by overuse and lack of
maintenance, such as pedestrian and vehicular conflicts,
haphazard parking, soil compaction and overgrown vegetation,
and vandalism and disrepair of existing buildings.
The planning process for Buttonwood developed recommendations
for restoring the park's historic design. The 1895
Olmsted, Olmsted, and Eliot plan highlighted two major features,
a large central pond and a surrounding meadow that provided the
natural pastoral setting so typical of Olmsted's design philosophy.
This original scheme emphasized opportunities to experience the
scenic effects of water, meadow, and wood, whether in a boat on the
pond, walking along the meadow, or on a primary carriage road on
the perimeter. Pedestrians were given exclusive use of the park's
interior. While the 1895 plan was never formally adopted and few
of its principles were followed as the park developed, the report
advised that the "Olmsted design principles expressed in the
original plan are as relevant today as in 1895 and provide a starting
point for solving contemporary problems."5
Buttonwood's Master Plan recommended two primary
improvements in keeping with the original design intent: (1) a
comprehensive circulation system safely separating vehicular and
pedestrian traffic and removal of vehicles from the park's interior,
and (2) the creation of a "Great Lawn" as a visual and functional
"heart" of the park, dedicated to informal gatherings, concerts and
performing arts, to connect the various parts of the park to one
central open space. In the first phase of implementation, several
key aspects of the plan were executed, establishing the framework
for honoring the original design intent, while coping with current
public demands. Tennis courts in the park's center were relocated
and rebuilt on its perimeter, opening the democratic Great Lawn,
as suggested in the 1895 plan. This relieved the sense of congestion
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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/m1/26/: accessed August 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.