April 2022–November 2022
Boston and Brookline, MA
Over the summer of 2022, CultureHouse worked with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy to develop and conduct a public space impact assessment to measure the impacts of their Parks as Platform events. Parks as Platform was part of the larger Olmsted Now program, whose goals were to increase park access, amplify partner capacity to welcome expanded audiences, and maximize diverse public offerings.
Olmsted Now: Greater Boston’s Olmsted Bicentennial was a year-long effort to strengthen equitable engagement, diversify connections, and grow opportunities for shared use, health, and empowerment in parks and public spaces. The report summarizes the efforts, measures the impacts, and records lessons learned to guide the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s future work.
Jen Mergel drafted the report for the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, which commissioned CultureHouse to collect and analyze data on the Parks as Platform program and to oversee overall data presentation and publication. It follows guidelines commissioned from Mendelsohn, Gittleman & Associates, data commissioned from Grayscale Collaborative, and reflections facilitated by Design Studio for Social Intervention.
Parks as Platform components
Interactive community engagement
As a part of this project, we are collecting qualitative and quantitative data during the seven Parks as Platform events. We look at the effect that each event has including who is using the park, where they are visiting from, how they are using the space, and how perceptions of the park changed as a result of the event. Rather than using traditional surveys, we collect these data through interactive methods that make all people want to engage, not just those who typically do. Our interactive data collection tools include giant voting tubes, sticker maps, an open-response prompt board, bingo chip feedback, and plenty of conversations!
Observational data collection
In addition to interactive community engagement, we are collecting observational data both before and during Olmsted Now events. These data, which include demographic information and use patterns, give a baseline to compare to and provide a complement to the rich community feedback we receive.
Parks as Platform events
Saturday, April 23 @ Olmsted Park
Event partner – Brookline Parks and Open Space
Sunday, May 8 @ Arnold Arboretum
Event partner – Harvard’s Arboretum Team
Saturday, June 11 @ Franklin Park
Event partner – Boston Arts & Music Soul Fest
Saturday, July 9 @ Back Bay Fens
Event partner – Fenway Porchfest
Jamaica Plain Porchfest
Saturday, August 20 @ Jamaica Pond
Event partner – JP Porchfest and Dunamis Boston
Emerald Necklace Parkfest
Saturday, September 24 @ all Emerald Necklace parks
Saturday, October 1 @ Charlesgate Park
Event partner – Charlesgate Alliance
Emerald Necklace Parkfest
Though we participated in every Olmsted Now event, we were one of the main partners for the second-to-last event: Parkfest. Parkfest celebrated Frederick Law Olmsted’s 200th year with an afternoon of activities across seven parks he designed in the Emerald Necklace park system.
Presented in collaboration with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and the National Park Service, CultureHouse helped to design and host scavenger hunts, parade decorating stations, and picnic zones throughout all parks. The event also included free performances, storytelling, DJs, doggy-meet cutes, and so much more.
At Parkfest, we continued our assessment of the Parks as Platform program through our interactive data collection methods. Being a geographically large event, Parkfest provided the challenge of spreading our community engagement tools across seven sites. In response, we designed folding cardboard screens for each park that had a different engagement tool on each side of the three boards they were made up of. These engagement screens allowed us to collect additional data at all seven parks, bolstering the information we’ve gathered at other Olmsted Now events these past six months.