More than 300 citizens turned out to the Franklin Park Golf Clubhouse on Thursday night for the Park and Open Space Mayoral Forum to hear 10 Boston mayoral hopefuls discuss their future plans for the city’s greenspace if elected.
Boston Architectural College President Ted Landsmark and Boston Globe journalist Derrick Jackson moderated the forum, which was sponsored by the Boston Park Advocates, a citywide network of individuals and organizations that champion Boston’s open spaces.
Mike Ross, a District 8 city councilor since 2008 and chair of the Special Committee on the Boston Common, spoke of working with the state to create a “continuous ribbon” that would allow bicyclists to travel continuously along city parkland from the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway to Franklin Park.
“I think it’s very important to connect these parks,” Ross said.
Ross also proposed establishing a $10-million endowment for the city’s parks, “with the city’s money behind it.”
Marty Walsh, who has served as state representative for the 13th Suffolk District since 1997, suggested making the city’s parks more accessible to young people by offering more park programming. He also emphasized the importance of making continuous investments in the parks over time.
“We need to put a little love into them now, so we’re not spending lots of money down the road,” Walsh said.
Bill Walczak, a longtime community activist and founder of the Codman Square Health Center, proposed setting aside an adequate annual budget for the city’s parks, as well as creating new parks in parts of the city without sufficient greenspace.
John Barros, a newcomer to politics who last served as the executive director of the non-profit Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, pointed to the weekly jazz concerts at Brewer Fountain Plaza on the Boston Common as an example of the type of programming that should be undertaken at parks throughout the city.
“We need to add arts to our parks,” Barros said.
Felix Arroyo, a city councilor at large since 2010, described his vision of bringing stakeholders from the city and state together with Friends groups to jointly govern the city’s parks, but said he found the Department of Conservation and Recreation “unresponsive” in park matters.
“I don’t even know who to call to get anything done over there,” Arroyo said.
John Connolly, who has served as a city councilor at-large since 2008, emphasized the need to streamline DCR’s online permitting process for the city parks to attract more programming.
“We need park art and more connections for young people,” Connolly said. “Everyone in Boston should be encouraged to use the city’s parks.”
Charles Clemons, co-owner of a local radio station and a former Boston Police officer, suggested strengthening the city’s parks through partnerships.
“The parks are the common ground for everyone,” Clemons said. “It’s about community. It’s about unity. It’s about doing the right thing.”
Robert Consalvo, who has served as the District 5 city councilor since June of 2002, suggested outfitting the city’s parks with weather-resistant exercise equipment.
“It could provide free exercise for people who otherwise couldn’t afford it,” he said.
Consalvo also recommended establishing a coordinator position for the city’s parks to serve in a similar capacity as the mayor’s neighborhood liaisons by attending meetings and handling community outreach.
Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley emphasized the responsibility of the next mayor to appoint a “visionary leader for the parks.”
“We need a holistic plan for the parks that focuses on the properties and maintenance,” Conley said. “We also need an online map of all the parks.”
Charles Yancey, who has served as District 4 city councilor since 2001, said all of Boston’s parks deserve as much consideration as the Boston Common and the Public Garden.
“I expect every park in the City of Boston to receive the same attention,” Yancey said.
Another candidate Charlotte Golar Richie, who served as state representative for the 5th Suffolk District from 1995 to 1999, was unable to attend the forum for family reasons, moderators said.