I attended one of the June subcommittee meetings on Victory Field renovations. As with many projects, it is difficult to organize the “general public” to attend. And it is natural that those whose work is directly affected (sports directors from high school, recreation dept. and youth) are an integral part of this project, and will speak in favor of their needs. But in the effort to accommodate their needs, we can lose the identity of this open space, which has served the general public for decades, improving health and building community, in an informal way. By adding many fixed physical objects to the field for organized sports, we may make the field uninviting for casual play, and we may lose flexibility to use this space for future needs.
I would encourage the Committee to define or – upfront – how much of this Field will be allotted for organized athletics (high school, recreation dept., sports, etc. ) vs. left as a “park.”
I would also encourage the Committee to recommend that some organized activities be designated for other fields in town. It is not appropriate to compare Watertown High to schools in more landed towns such as Belmont or Needham. Moreover, as in academic areas, some regional sharing opportunities may evolve.
And, I would encourage the Committee to consider the growing importance of parks and open space in this time of increased density for our Town. The need for spontaneous/unorganized play and open, natural spaces is greater than ever before.
I have quoted (below) from several sources, which describe the many benefits that a park serves, especially regarding health and community building:
1. Sharing School Facilities – How Collaboration can Increase Physical Activity in Communities (Kentucky Cancer Consortium and Kentucky Youth Advocates)
Increased physical activity opportunities for adults
Increased opportunities for family time activities
Increased physical activity opportunities for youth
Improved partnerships with community organizations
Improved community relationships
Too often we underestimate the impact that nature and play have on children’s health. In fact, studies show that one of the best ways to stay healthy is to simply step outside. Parks and green spaces improve health and well being, strengthen communities, and make neighborhoods better places to live, work, and play. Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and others have teamed up to create Pittsburgh Parks Prescription, or Parks Rx, inviting children (and adults) in every neighborhood to explore and enjoy their local parks.
We are facing a new era of defining what constitutes a park. No longer seen as simply grass and trees, parks provide a multitude of benefits to their users. In the past, parks brought an element of the country into the city. They provided relief from overcrowded housing conditions and congestion. They later evolved into recreation centers and facilities. These park functions all continue to have value today. Parks, however, have begun to play a more integrated role in our urban environments.
They provide formal and informal gathering places for building community. They help to positively influence property values. They give city dwellers a place to connect to the natural world. They make our urban areas more inviting for living, working, and relaxing.
To understand what the urban parks of the future — and the cities in which they exist — will be, urban leaders need a venue for addressing the challenges of creating and enhancing parks in their cities. The City Parks Forum provided this venue.
A well-designed park allows for change. “As a society, we’re not static,” says Nielsen. “We want different things over time.” That’s why the firm is wary of dedicating square footage to any single use. “People ask for everything: a dog run, a playground for two-year-olds, somewhere to fly kites,” says Nielsen. “If you try to accommodate each of those very specific requirements, there will be no room for flexibility.”
“People ask for everything,” says Nielsen. “A dog run, a playground for two-year-olds, somewhere to fly kites.”
PARKS ARE FOR PEOPLE
Humans are creatures of habit, so it’s important to design spaces that complement people’s daily rhythms. When the firm built a park adjacent to the University of Pennsylvania’s hospital, it took into account how foot traffic would actually function. “We created three types of circulation: a fast lane along the street curb, a slow lane that skirts the interior of the park, and a meandering path that’s a stopping lane,” says Mathews. The different routes allow one person to dash to class, another to stroll while talking on her cell phone, and a third to stop and take in the space during a work break, all without getting in each other’s way.
SELFIES ARE A GOOD SIGN
In New York—a city full of tourists, traffic, and tall buildings that block sight lines—views and space are at a premium. That’s why Mathews and Nielsen try to maximize both. “One of the most remarkable comments we got in a community outreach,” says Mathews of one project located next to the Bronx River, “was from a kid who said he wanted us to design a space where he could ‘make memories and have his picture taken with a friend.’ ” So the firm did just that, creating an amphitheater of stone seats that offered a perfect backdrop for social media documentation. It’s further proof that in the same way parks must evolve to reflect changing needs and mores, so must their designers.