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Franklin Park to become city destination under Imagine Boston 2030 plan

A big part of the city's plan is making Franklin Park more connected to other areas so its easy to visit.

The Imagine Boston 2030 is poised to put Franklin Park as one of the city’s top destinations — right next to the Freedom Trail and Boston Common on checklists for both visitors and locals to visit.

Franklin Park is referred to as the “crown jewel of the Emerald Necklace,” the park system designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (who is also the brains behind Central Park) that sits right in the heart of Boston and extends to Brookline.

Franklin Park is actually the largest park in Boston and covers more acres than the city’s downtown area, said Natalia Urtubey, director of engagement for Imagine Boston 2030, but it’s so far been underutilized.

Urtubey said that the park is already a destination for some people because it contains the Franklin Park Zoo, but a lot of others, especially Boston residents, don’t really know about it or all it has to offer.

“We want it to be a regional destination,” she said. “We also want it to be functional, exciting and a gathering place for the existing neighborhoods.”

To make it such a gathering place, a key part of the Imagine Boston 2030 plan is improving connectivity to the park from the Fairmount Line, bus routes and to drivers by adding parking. That way, it’s accessible from the city’s main streets and all neighborhoods, not just those directly surrounding the park.

Franklin Park is bordered by Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Roslindale, Mattapan and Dorchester. This can make the planning process a bit difficult, as those from different neighborhoods primarily use different parts of the park and have different concerns about its future.

“Basically, how people interact with the park is usually that they interact with whatever section is closest to them,” Urtubey said. “Folks from Jamaica Plain, their backyard is essentially the Wilderness. Other folks can walk to the kiddie playground. [Some people] cut through Franklin Park to get to work.”

About 45 of these residents from the park’s surrounding neighborhoods came to an engagement event Thursday night to voice their thoughts on how the park should change. It’s a challenge to juggle, Urtubey said, but it also brings the communities together.

Some residents expressed interest in customizing the park by beautifying it through suggestions such as a perennial garden or a landscape feature that the park is known for, like a specific kind of flower. 

“I think it gives people the opportunity to make a space that they really can own and be accountable for,” Urtubey said of Imagine Boston 2030.

Other improvements to the park in the city plan include adding more arts and cultural programming, creating clear park entrances and improving signage. 

John Linehan, the president and CEO of Zoo New England, was at the engagement event Thursday night, as Franklin Park Zoo is a within the park. He’s looking forward to the future of the park, he said, but knows its development will require other infrastructure changes from the city as well. 

“With all the exciting improvements that will be coming to Franklin Park it will become an ever greater resource and attraction for both Boston residents and visitors to our city,” he said. “With more people being attracted to the park infrastructure, transportation and parking enhancements will all have to be upgraded to accommodate these greater numbers. Franklin Park is a true jewel within the city and a point of pride for our region.”

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