Growing up in Framingham, and now as the father of two girls, I am constantly reminded that we enjoy amazing community amenities for people of all ages and interests. These public spaces are special because they are not just open space, but resources in terms of attracting families, highlighting natural resources, and celebrating our diversity by bringing people together from all over Framingham. These are active spaces, not just open spaces. Places like Eastleigh and Hansen farms, community gardens, walking trails, Callahan State Park, Cushing, and so many other places are an absolute asset for the people of Framingham and one that I will not take for granted as a City Councilor.
Some may think that active community spaces are a luxury, but these resources absolutely help to define Framingham, to differentiate us from truly urbanized areas, attract new residents, and keep families here. It is essential that we do all in our power to preserve these treasures, expand them, and create more active spaces throughout Framingham.
There are a few ways that we can preserve open space, redefine existing unused areas, and enhance existing active spaces so that they serve the people of Framingham.
First, we should revisit the community preservation act (CPA), a 17-year-old Massachusetts program that would assign a portion of Framingham’s real estate tax dollars for the protection of open space, the creation of outdoor amenities, and the preservation of historic buildings. By finding efficiencies in our current departments, we can make a modest CPA investment neutral in terms of taxes, but gain a state contribution that matches a portion of what we collect.
Second, we need to demand more from developers in terms of creating active space. It is not enough to just carve out a portion of land that will remain unused scrub brush. Anyone who walks or drives by Nobscot Plaza knows that an empty plot of land with nothing more than weeds is useless. Open space as a developer amenity should not only be public but also readily accessible and USEFUL for all kinds of people. Think dog parks, walking trails, playgrounds, basketball courts, and yes – splash pads!
Third, we should aggressively explore grant funds that could be used to improve public amenities. It does not take a huge investment to expand playgrounds, create basketball courts, or build gaga ball pits, but it can have a huge impact on usage and on bringing people together. For example, Framingham Town Meeting will have the opportunity to acquire a plot of land on Irving Street that will benefit from a creative approach on improving the existing space. Certainly, Cushing Park has become an even bigger townwide attraction because of its playground and in that way it serves to bring Framingham together. I imagine July 4th fireworks over Cushing as a powerful celebration of our country – I would love to make that happen.
Fourth, we need to continue to reimagine existing spaces such as the excellent aqueduct walking trail and the Cochituate rail trail. One such opportunity is the abandoned CSX line that would extend the Bruce Freeman rail trail from route 20 parallel to Edgell Road all the way to Framingham Centre. My understanding is that we are still negotiating with CSX, but our first city government will have every opportunity to acquire this property and convert it into an excellent alternative to traffic-clogged Edgell Road. Once that happens, we can explore bike-sharing programs that will make this an ideal opportunity.
Active space – open space that is a community attraction – is part of what makes Framingham special. As development transforms portions of our city, we must remain committed to our active spaces to insure that urbanization does not overwhelm our community spirit. As district 3 city councilor, I will make maintaining, improving, and expanding this active space a priority throughout the City of Framingham.
As I was walking our dog Lucy on the aqueduct trail in my neighborhood last week, I selfie recorded a few thoughts on open space. Please check out this short video: