Parkman Drive: For traffic or for people?
Parkman Drive is a busy thoroughfare, making it difficult for pedestrians and bicyclists to continue through the Emerald Necklace Park System safely.
For those making the commute by car into the city, Parkman Drive serves as a scenic thoroughfare. But for bikers, walkers, and others using the Jamaica Pond recreationally, it serves as a drastic divide between the Pond and the rest of Emerald Necklace.
Parkman Drive was created between 1892-3 to help connect commuters to Boston proper, according to Michael Reiskind, a historian of the Jamaica Plain Historical Society. As described by Gerry Wright, of Community Caring Institute, about a hundred years later, several residents questioned some of the added roads — most notably Riverdale Parkway and Parkman Drive. After many plans and meetings, Riverdale Parkway was shut to create green space and a pedestrian/bike path, but Parkman Drive was too essential for drivers, and heavy resistance for the closure stopped the proposed project.
Residents who object and live on nearby roads wonder, 'Where will the cars go?' If Parkman is closed, traffic will be diverted to other roads, again causing safety issues.
One resident, who asked not to be named, said, "If we close Parkman, and the thousands of cars are diverted to my road, my kids' safety and our pedestrians are at risk. Also, with residences, there's a higher chance of accidents because of people pulling in and out of driveways, and people driving too fast. Parkman has no houses."
So, the organizers decided to try a different approach to Parkman Drive, motivated by Memorial Drive in Cambridge. Every Sunday in the summer, Memorial shuts for traffic and opens for recreational use. So, on Sept. 19, several community organizations* collaborated and closed Parkman Drive for public use.
Sarah Freeman, a member of the Arborway Coalition and Neighborhood Parks and Open Spaces Committee of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, stated "the concept behind the event was our ongoing frustration that people love to walk around the Pond, but the guardrail prevents people from continuing further through the Emerald Necklace up to the Arboretum. There's no walkway or path which allows people to cross Parkman to get to the Memorial or to the meadow. It feels like the Necklace ends at the Pond."
Freeman also expressed the need for clean-up along the road. "The cars driving by throw their trash out the window. It's an eyesore. We need to shut it down occasionally so it's safe for us to do clean-up projects."
Jay Zoldak, chairperson of the Parks and Open Spaces Committee, said "I was blown away by the response of the community and organizations. All the groups who participated were really excited, and we hope to do it again next summer."
The day included a clean-up along the road, Mike the Hat Man, music, BMX bikers, and several organizations handing out information on the grassy meadow. Some participants also enjoyed a short history by Michael Reiskind near the Parkman Memorial later in the day.
Parkman Drive may never be shut down, except occasionally. But community members, who gathered on Oct. 7 for a Department of Conservation and Recreation and Emerald Necklace Conservancy meeting about pathway improvements, are ultimately concerned about the safety of bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers. Several noted many areas along the Necklace that are in need of safer crosswalks and well-noted crossings, to make it easier for both people and cars to use the space.
*Among the community groups that made the road closure happen were: Arborway Coalition, Arnold Arboretum, Bikes Not Bombs, Boston Cyclists Union, Emerald Necklace Conservancy, Ferris Wheels Bike Shop, Franklin Park Zoo, Friends of Jamaica Pond, Jamaica Hills Association, Jamaica Plain Forum, Jamaica Pond Association, JP Bikes, JP Neighborhood Council, Livable Streets Alliance, MA DCR, Max Lee/Freestyle Force, and the Office of State Rep. Jeffery Sanchez.
[Editor's note: Alison Yoos currently works at Community Caring Institute, which helps organize several community events and supports community programs. Her organization helped sponsor Parkman Drive is for People. Please see friendsofjamaicapond.org for more information and events]