LETTER: Green Infrastructure Must be Part of the Watertown Square Area Plan

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The following letter was submitted to be read at the June 13, 2024 Watertown Square Area Plan meeting:

Dear Vincent, Watertown Planning Board, and Watertown City Council:

I am sorry I cannot attend in person this evening, so I hope that this can go on the Public record as my comment:


First, I just want to say that I have been excited to hear about the plans for Watertown Square to develop the area — much-needed improvements in public transportation, walkability, bike-ability, drive-ability, housing, local businesses, and our community as a whole, and I can say that the people of Watertown have very much appreciated your including the residents in the planning process. We have had the chance to voice our concerns, and we are grateful for that. 

Thank you to all of those who are working to make this the best plan for Watertown.

I realize there is momentum to give the plan a GREEN light. However, please hear me out when I say tonight that I think that as good as this plan is, there is still a huge, critical piece that is missing and a means to make this plan much better for the future of Watertown.

I hope that with my speaking up tonight, members of the Planning Board and City Council, and hopefully also any residents of Watertown who are listening, will consider taking the necessary steps to further optimize the plan to encompass that which is missing: 

Urban Ecological Planning and Living Green Infrastructure.

And it’s not just about planting a few trees here and there in Watertown Square. 

Trees are indispensable, living green infrastructure that not only provide protective cooling shade, but also absorb THOUSANDS of gallons of stormwater each year. Trees contribute to the natural world that coexists with us and sustains us too. Trees can be used to line streets, slow speeders and form a ‘green wall’ between the cars and the sidewalk & bike lane …. When you think of a bustling main street in a more pedestrian downtown (like what we are hoping to achieve with this plan), we think about a cute city square for shopping at local places, dining outside at restaurants, etc. — And in that vision, the streets are tree-lined.

It is critical that we incorporate LIVING GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE into EVERY ASPECT of the plan — the street layout, the sidewalks, the bike paths, parking, bus stops, storefronts, housing — ALL OF IT. 

Working at multiple scales, ecological infrastructure incorporates stormwater treatment, capture, and reuse; street design for conviviality and multi-modal movement; low-impact transportation networks and facilities; habitat networks; and park, urban food, and greenway systems (College of Built Environments, University of Washington.) This is urban ecological planning!

Some more ideas for Watertown’s plan include: planting an abundance of trees and native plants, incorporating wide continuous tree pits and planting strips into the design of Watertown Square, using permeable pavement instead of concrete and asphalt, including tree trenches into the design and planting trees that will shade our bus stops and sidewalks, to name a few. 

So far, there has not been much of a mention of Urban Ecological Planning or Living Green Infrastructure in this plan, and that’s my concern. It seems obvious that in 2024, Living Green Infrastructure should be weighted the same, if not more, as ‘traffic’ and ‘housing’ — but it has been forgotten.

To abide by the Watertown Comprehensive Plan and to take strides to combat the heat island effect, global warming, and flooding as we develop Watertown, and, as we plan for our future and the future of our children, there needs to be an increased, serious focus on sustainable solutions and Green Infrastructure. The time to bring in experienced urban ecological planners to optimize the plan for the Watertown Square area is NOW. 

Thank you for listening,

Jessica Grimsby
Prospect St.

8 thoughts on “LETTER: Green Infrastructure Must be Part of the Watertown Square Area Plan

  1. Ms. Grimsby urges Watertown planners, permission granting authorities, and elected officials to rethink Watertown’s streets and sidewalks. She stresses what reasonable people already know: lively energetic streets make city living attractive.

    But now, many of our streets are teetering between lively and with the threats posed by climate change, unlivable. It is way past time to think seriously about the future of the city’s streets and sidewalks. There are places like Paris, London, and Stockholm to look for inspiration. We can initiate an ecological new deal for people and Mother Nature.

    What will an ecological new deal look like, and will planners, elected officials, and residents get on board? Change never comes without a fight, so we know that ecological new deal battles likely will be fought street by street and block by block.

  2. I’d like to add my vote for living green infrastructure in the new plans for Watertown Square and beyond. It was not something that came up at the kitchen table discussion we attended though we did discuss doing more to maintain the green spaces we have such as the beautiful new bike path. A shift to prioritizing our natural environment over cars, business and convenience will lift us all up and create a healthier living environment. As our town grows in prosperity, maybe it can even become a model for excellence in green infrastructure and environmental renewal. Thank you to Jessica and all who are working on the plan!

  3. I completely agree with Jessica. This needs to be central to the planning starting now, not an afterthought tacked on at the end.

  4. Thank you for these responses. I know that I’m not alone in this vision for Watertown Square. Please know that YOUR VOICE COUNTS and that WATERTOWN NEEDS YOUR VOICE! If you want the Watertown Square Plan to integrate Natural Open Green Space into the design plan so that Watertown can become a Greener and Healthier City–for future generations, PLEASE VOICE THAT! and Let our City know — Send an email to our City Councilors and/or SPEAK UP IN PERSON or on ZOOM at the public meeting being held TOMORROW NIGHT at the Middle School (Thursday, June 27, 6 pm).

  5. It’s shocking that green spaces haven’t been considered in the Watertown Square plan. Green spaces and trees will make Watertown Square more beautiful, sustainable, and livable. Our city is sadly lacking in green spaces. We need green infrastructure — it cannot be an afterthought. This new Watertown Square plan gives us a wonderful opportunity to include more green space. Trees are proven to calm traffic. And, native shrubs and trees will make Watertown Square a place that people actually want to go to. Please let our city councilors know your thoughts on this important matter. You can email them: citycouncilors@watertown-ma.gov.

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