Fostering Neighborhood Vitality & Open Spaces

July 14, 2022

The last two years have highlighted the importance of access to outdoor open space. In FY22, the City launched the Our Parks, Our Plan process to develop an action plan for the City’s open space network, applying an equity lens to criteria that include park access and climate resilience. A robust outreach strategy to engage the community in visioning and evaluating priorities included online surveys, youth focus groups, and inperson pop-up events. This work will inform a plan that reflects community interests and can guide future park and open space improvements so that these benefits are shared equitably across Cambridge.

New Parks, Open Spaces, and Renovated Fields. In FY22, the City completed construction on several park and open space projects:

  • Louis A. DePasquale Universal Design Playground at Danehy Park serves as a model for an inclusive playground designed for visitors of all abilities to play together. Universal Design also takes physical, sensory, cognitive, and emotional abilities into consideration to create an environment that is welcoming to all people to the greatest extent possible. Learn more at Cambridgema.gov/udplayground.
  • Glacken Field renovations include field area and tot lot improvements and perimeter loop path.
  • The Watertown-Cambridge Greenway, the result of a partnership between the City of Cambridge and DCR provides a new multi-use path connection between Fresh Pond Reservation and Watertown.
  • A new Reading Garden at O’Connell Library in East Cambridge, created through a partnership with East Cambridge Open Space Trust, transformed an underutilized space into a new neighborhood resource.

Cambridge Public Space Lab. This new initiative seeks to bring joy and playfulness to underutilized spaces in away that fosters creativity, collaboration, and community. In FY22, the City created two public patios along Cambridge Street in Inman Square, which were well received and embellished with flower boxes, art, and a public piano. Other Public Space Lab projects include CloudHouse,a temporary shade pavilion installed in summer 2021at Greene-Rose Heritage Park to mitigate impacts of extreme heat, and enhancements to Palmer Street in Harvard Square.

Our Cambridge Street (Inman Square/Cambridge Street Corridor Planning). The Envision Cambridge plan articulated a shared vision for sensitive growth by identifying the type, scale, and location of development needed to meet community goals. Inman Square and Cambridge Street were identified as areas with potential to advance the City’s priorities. In FY22, the City started community planning process to develop place-specific recommendations to realize shared community goals for this area.

Harvard Square Kiosk. Renovation of the Harvard Square Kiosk building started in 2021. Construction at the Kiosks expected to conclude in 2023, at which point an operator hired by the City will begin programming the Kiosk.

Fine Free Library Pilot. In October 2021, Cambridge Public Library (CPL) launched a one-year pilot of not charging fines for late returns or renewals of library materials, ensuring that everyone in the community has equitable access to books and materials. CPL has long been fine free for children’s and young adult materials. This new initiative extends the fine free policy to adult materials and offers forgiveness for lost or damaged Cambridge-owned children’s and young adult materials.

Library Social Worker. In March 2021, CPL hired its first Licensed Clinical Social Worker. The social work program at CPL started by connecting the public with immediate resources such as food, clothing, and school supplies; crisis intervention resources; and referrals to other social service providers across the city. As the program became more established, the Library Social Worker identified frequently occurring needs in the areas of basic needs, health services, housing and utility assistance, career support, and immigrant and legal resources. The Library Social Worker coordinates a group of Social Work Interns, graduate students participating in mandatory field practicums as part of their social work education. The students, who focus on priority areas such as resources for immigrants, seniors, youth, and the unhoused community, will be participating in the Care Calls program. Interested community members can sign up for a weekly check-in phone call from a social work intern who will provide information about resources, assess community needs, and offer human connection and engagement.

Liberation Mini Libraries. Cambridge Public Library worked in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office, the City Manager’s Office, and My Brother’s Keeper, to install five mini libraries, called Liberation Libraries, across the city. The Libraries are stocked with books written by Black and Brown authors and include titles for all ages. The selection of books was curated by librarians at Cambridge Public Library and purchased with support of the Cambridge Public Library Foundation.

 

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