Newton Open Space and Recreation Plan – Comment on Draft

The City of Newton invites all residents to comment on the Draft 2020-2027 Open Space and Recreation Plan. Please send comments to:  [email protected] . Public comment will be accepted until May 18th, 2020

Full report here: http://www.newtonma.gov/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp…

If you have only a short time to review the document, our partners at Newton Safe Routes to School recommend reading Chapter 9, which presents goals and their related actions, is a good place to focus. The main item of note for Safe Routes to School is Goal 5, “Connectivity” (page 7).

  • Section 7, page 8, outlines need.
  • Section 8, page 2, defines goal.
  • Section 9, outlines implementation.

From Section 8:
Goal 5: CONNECTIVITY: Linked open space resources with accessible paths, bike lanes, and trails.

Connectivity was a theme that emerged as residents noted their desires for better bike and pedestrian access to Newton’s open space resources. It was oft noted that better bicycle and pedestrian access would serve all of Newton: underserved areas, disabled residents, older residents, families, able-bodied residents, school age children, and local businesses. Many of Newton’s open spaces are primarily accessed by cars. Improved, safe, “quiet” sidewalks, trails and paths that connect these resources and promote passive recreation would be a boon for Newton. Implementing wayfinding and navigation measures within these improved/expanded connections will be highly beneficial to the City. Newton will strive to continue to improve bike and pedestrian safety, bike and pedestrian linkages between open spaces and schools, and connectivity for populations with limited access to open space.

Connected natural areas also contribute to the area’s overall ecological health by providing corridors for safe wildlife passage. Wildlife corridors ensure greater biodiversity, enabling the survival of species that are threatened by human development.”

The OSRP is an important municipal planning document. It provides an inventory of all existing areas of recreational use and open space (City owned and privately owned) and a list of goals and priorities for municipal actions regarding land acquisitions, recreational facility and open space improvements, and accessibility improvements

Newton Open Space and Recreation Plan

Newton is updating its current Open Space and Recreation Plan, a plan required by the state that will be valid for 7 years once approved. There are opportunities for the community to weigh in on what is such an important part of our garden city: a brief survey due by Feb 13th and community meetings. The first meeting was held on Feb 6 (sorry we missed it). The next one is on Wednesday, March 4th, 2020 from 7:00-9:00pm.

We encourage you to complete the survey and attend the meeting. You’ll note there is little in the survey related to schools, but you can write in priorities as “Other”. Here are some of the Newton Safe Routes to Schools suggestions:

1) Safe Routes to Schools. We are so fortunate that parks and open spaces are already safe walking routes to school for many Newton students, and Newton can do an even better job of maintaining, protecting, and enhancing these routes, and allow biking on green routes to schools, which is often the safest way for students to bike to school out of the way of vehicles. 

2) Safe Routes to Parks. Kids should be able to safely bike or walk to parks, including navigating conflict points with vehicles at entrances and in parking lots. There should be bike parking at parks in a logical, safe location from the entrance. The National Safe Routes Partnership has a new focus on safe routes to parks.

3) Safe Routes from Schools to Parks. The increasing cost of schools buses for field trips has made them a financial stretch for some families and when PTOs help pay for field trips, including financial aid for those unable to pay, then the expense comes from their limited allowed equity spending. Shifting some field trips to walking to local parks and other sites would dramatically decrease the cost of field trips. The barriers to this currently are safe walking routes to get to these sites and universal access for all students once on site. 

As well put by Newton Conservators, “all of the items listed in the survey are important for Newton’s open spaces, but there are a few that are particularly important to maintain biodiversity and healthy wildlife habitat”. Here are some examples:

  • Need for legal protection for all of our parks and conservation areas (against development).
  • Need to emphasize the importance of biodiversity in the city’s open spaces; develop a plan for defining and assessing the existing it biodiversity and then  monitoring it and finding ways to increase it.
  • Need for coordinated work to increase native plants (for pollinators and all wildlife) and to control invasive plants.
  • Importance of developing wildlife corridors
  • Need to preserve tree canopy—in open space as well as on streets
  • Need to create more trails and to maintain those that exist
  • Possibility of creating a city Trails Committee or Open Space Commission to help oversee goals of the plan
  • Need to include hiking, XC skiing, canoeing (including portaging paths on the Charles)
  • Clean open waterways (rivers, lakes, etc.) for swimming, fishing, and boating
  • Opportunity to add signage/maps of nearby open space in village centers
  • Consideration of ways to coordinate the work of the Parks and Rec Department and the Conservation Department to make maintenance of all open space more efficient and to help the public to learn about all of the areas.
  • Universally accessible open space areas and resources