Image Credit: © Matthew Ireland
What is the Southwest Corridor Park Action Plan?
The Southwest Corridor Park is a 52-acre, 4-mile park that runs from Back Bay Station to Forest Hills Station. It stands as a national case study of the power of advocacy, grassroot organization, and community mobilization efforts to deter the federal highway construction movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Since its opening in 1987, the park has been a vital Boston asset. It provides walking and biking paths, access to eight subway (T) stations, important green space, and recreational facilities. After 30 years, the well-loved park is ready for renewed attention and investment. The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) kicked off the The Southwest Corridor Action Plan as the effort to update, modernize, and invest in the park’s future. And we’re helping…
LivableStreets Alliance has joined the project to lead community engagement. By attending events, hosting conversations with community leaders, and collecting data, the team will help the DCR understand the parkland’s opportunities and challenges.
Alongside data collected by Kyle Zick Landscape Architecture and Toole Design, community feedback will inform a vision for the park’s future. DCR will use collected feedback to decide short- and long-term investments to improve the park. Click here for more on the Southwest Corridor Park Action Plan.
How Can You Be Involved in the Southwest Corridor Action Plan?
To provide feedback and ideas…
- Visit the project’s Story Map
- Review the Listening Session #1 presentation + send comments to [email protected]
- Sign up to receive updates by emailing [email protected]
- Be on the lookout for surveys and opportunities for feedback in the beginning of 2024
Community conversations occurred throughout summer 2023
Image Credit: LivableStreets Alliance
What’s Next for the Southwest Corridor Park Action Plan?
Phase I: May - October 2023
Background and Existing Conditions: includes field work, data collection, use analysis, historical research, and talking to the community
Phase 2: November - May 2024 (In process)
Action Plan: includes draft of recommendations for recreational spaces and the path. Recommendations will be brought to the community for feedback
Phase 3: June - July 2024
Implementation Strategies: includes prioritization of early action- and long-term projects, with more opportunities for public response
Public Listening Sessions
Public Meeting #1: July 26, 2023 // Plan kick-off and listening session (review presentation and watch recording)
Public Meeting #2: Winter 2023 // Development of draft master plan
Public Meeting #3: Winter 2024 // Finalization of master plan
Public Meeting #4: Spring 2024 // Implementation strategy and early action projects
The proposed Inner Belt Highway system imagined highway connections through the Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, South End, and Back Bay.
Image Credit: Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative
What is the history of the Southwest Corridor Park?
The Southwest Corridor Park is heralded as a national example of People Power.
In the 1960s, plans to construct the Inner Belt Highway system with the Boston region were shared with the public. This system was to be a network of interstates that would connect areas west, south, and north of the City via a 12- lane highway running through Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, the South End, Back Bay, and Cambridge. While the plans would raze neighborhoods with various socio-economic and demographic differences, effects would be disproportionately felt by low-income and POC communities. Activists, many with experience in anti-war and civil rights protests, as well as urban planners and community members pushed back.
After decades of collective action, the expressway was canceled by Governor Francis Sargent in 1972. In its place, a linear park containing public transit would be built. After about nine years of planning and design process, the park and new Orange subway line was open to the public. At the time of its creation, the Southwest Corridor Park was “the largest single construction project undertaken in Massachusetts.” It won numerous awards for urban design.
The design and uses of the park were developed in over 1,000 meetings with community members. A Christian Science Monitor article published on February 24, 1989 describes how each neighborhood crafted their section of the park to make it distinct. “The South End, which had the corridor right in its backyard, insisted that trains be underground. Roxbury, which was slightly farther away, did not object to the trains being aboveground but wanted facilities for kids. The Jamaica Plain and South End neighborhoods ... were big on gardens.”
Construction of Southwest Corridor Park.
Image Credit: Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative
Dan Ocasio, then head of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), created a special office to handle the Southwest Corridor project. He stated that the “activists forced the state to reevaluate plans for the whole region, and that was the first time the federal government was willing to allocate highway dollars to rapid transit” (Foster, 1989). The project remains a success story about the transformative powers of public transportation.
A full activist history of the movement can be found in Karilyn Crockett’s People Before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making.