Downtown Green Space Survey

Downtown Green Space Survey

prepared by SVT/DFI Intern Gabe Trevor, May 2019

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In partnership with Sudbury Valley Trustees, DFI hosted recently-graduated Clark University Intern Gabe Trevor during Spring Semester 2019. He prepared and fully executed the following report on downtown’s open spaces.


Purpose

The purpose of this survey was to determine the green space needs of residents of Downtown Framingham in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts.

Methodology

The content of this survey was adapted from a green space survey conducted by the City of Boston, with recommendations and modifications from individuals with Downtown Framingham, Inc. and Sudbury Valley Trustees.

To conduct this survey, I printed copies in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. I distributed the surveys to businesses and organizations in Downtown Framingham. These churches and community organizations were Saint Stephen Parish and Saint Tarcisius Parish, and community organizations such as the Brazilian-American Center and Amazing Things Art Center. Businesses included Neca’s Bakery, Urbano Furniture, Brazuka Store, Loyalty Barber Shop, BRZ Insurance, Framingham Sub Shop and Pizza, n+1 cyclery, RR6 Kitchen and Bar, and Pueblito Paisa. At all of these locations, I primarily communicated with administrative and service employees, including business owners at micro-businesses working in the storefront.

In addition to this primary method, the survey was presented at an environmental event in Framingham by a representative of Sudbury Valley Trustees. Bit.ly links to the survey in different languages were provided in a PowerPoint presentation, as well as physical copies. This brought in no responses.

As a supplement to the survey, I conducted built environment observations of several parks in and around Downtown Framingham, in the early afternoon during the week.

Survey Results - 22 total surveys collected

Demographic Results

Language

English: 9, Portuguese: 9, Spanish: 4

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Age

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Under 18 years old: 0

18 - 25 years old: 7

25 - 35 years old: 5

35 - 45 years old: 4

45-55 years old: 2

55 - 65 years old: 1

More than 65 years old: 1


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How long have you lived in Framingham?

Less than one year: 4

One to five years: 9

Five to ten years: 5

More than ten years: 1


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Household members

One: 0

Two: 10

Three: 3

Four: 5

Five: 2


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General Results

Do you walk in and around your neighborhood?

Yes: 14

No: 8


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If yes, why?

Recreation: 6

Work/errands: 2


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If no, why?

Busy/no time: 4

New in town: 1

Not much to see: 1


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How often do you and your family use your green space?

Daily: 1

Weekly: 3

Monthly: 9

Yearly: 3


What do you do in this green space? (Check all that apply)

Relaxation 11

Enjoy Nature 10

Spend time with friends and family 9

Exercise/fitness 7

Walk your dog 4

Individual Sports 2

Organized Sports 2

Mountain Biking 1

Picnic 1

Attend events 0

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How do you travel to the green spaces you use?

Car: 7

Walking: 3

Scooter: 1


Open-ended Narratives

Why do you use it? / What do you like most about the green space you use?

Nice, quiet; Clean, safe, beautiful; Fresh air, close to house, peaceful; Trails and green space; Close to home, Water fowl, woods and trails, other dogs; Spacious and safe; Tranquility; Sidewalks to walk; Mountain bike accessible; Beautiful

 

What do you like the least about the green space you use?

The parking is too small and they need to redo the grills; specifically for sports not what I use it for; always new rules; trash; sometimes there is a lot of dogs around; people do not collect dog poop; tennis area; not many lights when sun goes down

 

What facilities and activities would you add to the green space you use? / What is missing in your parks and open spaces?

Yoga classes; Trash cans; More playgrounds; Small track; Games for children; Exercise machines; a fix station for bicycles; more bathrooms and water fountains; some activities; public restroom; trash cans; Lights, nets for soccer, tables; cleaning; volleyball courts

 

Are there any green spaces you and your friends and family avoid?

Wife won't go to farm pond alone

 

In your neighborhood, what do you believe are the parks and open space needs?

Lights; there are no green space that I’m aware; some kids park to play; common respect for the space; there is no; green, activities in winter; volleyball courts

 

Five years from now, what changes would you like to see in the green spaces you use?

Actual safe green spaces; more of them and less small; less trash, sketch areas; soccer nets, closer parks, more, greener, exercise machines


Observation Results

Built environment observations were conducted at parks in and around Downtown Framingham in the early afternoon during the week. There were not significant negative observations of the built environment, the landscaping and equipment was universally in good condition. Notably, this observation time was not peak time for park use, and locations I observed typically had few people using the park.


Summary and Analysis

The majority of our respondents filled out the survey in a language other than English, predominantly Portuguese. The majority were between 18 and 35 years old, and are newer to Framingham, being residents for under five years, with no household exceeding five members.

Respondents will walk around their neighborhood for fun or to get to work, and if they don’t it’s because they are busy or don’t know about things to do in the neighborhood. The vast majority use a park or green space on a regular basis, at least monthly, and they usually get there via car. When they do go to the park, they are interested in relaxing, enjoying the natural environment, spending time with friends and family, and exercising. Notably, no residents surveyed go to their parks and green spaces for events.

Survey respondents complain about particular quality of life issues in their parks, including trash and dog poop, the size and quality of parks and their amenities, unused athletic spaces, and a lack of lights in the evening. They would like to see more basic facilities like trash cans, lighting, bathrooms, and water fountains, activities including yoga classes, as well as specific facilities for children and athletic activities.


Recommendations

Based on the results of this survey, I would make a few major recommendations for the parks and green spaces of Downtown Framingham. I would recommend an in-depth assessment of basic park facilities such as trash cans, lighting, bathrooms, and water fountains, and would advocate for their expansion where there are noted gaps.

I would hold off on facilities for specific activities, and would focus on low-cost programming in parks meant to fulfill those needs, widely advertised through the parks department and Downtown Framingham, Inc., such as recreational activities aimed at children and parents, and activities aimed at younger adults, such as yoga classes or a volleyball tournament using temporary nets. I would recommend hosting relaxing, family-oriented programming in green spaces during summer evenings and weekends, such farmer’s markets and concerts.

This is in line with how residents choose to use their green spaces, and would raise the profile of green spaces. Surveys focused on specific equipment and improvements could be distributed at these activities and events to develop long-term recommendations.

No survey respondents complained explicitly about their ability to visit parks, and most visited by car. There were, however, concerns about a lack of parking, but I would hesitate to advocate for more parking at existing green spaces, which could reduce the overall size of the green space. To facilitate easier travel, I would recommend the promotion and expansion of bus service in Downtown Framingham to green spaces, which would reduce resident impact on the environment while making parks easier to travel to without reducing their overall size.


Reflections

There were two major structural difficulties in the distribution and collection of this survey.

One was the composition of workers and business owners in Downtown Framingham. Many people I spoke to who worked in the neighborhood and may have filled out a survey did not live in Downtown Framingham or anywhere in the city.

The other major difficulty was a combination of the length of the survey and the availability of respondents. I left many surveys at businesses and with individuals who did not end up filling them out. Towards the end of the project, I ended up insisting on staying with the respondents if they were available, so that they would fill out the survey. This proved fruitful. Asking workers and business owners to fill out surveys during business hours can be difficult.

I would make two recommendations going forward. I would recommend that any future green space survey be revised to focus on a few specific questions regarding programming and improvements. In retrospect some questions proved redundant. For example, asking respondents about what they’d like to see in five years often produced similar or duplicate responses to prior questions.

I would also recommend future green space surveys be conducted on weekends and evenings at parks in and around Downtown Framingham, in addition to bringing another shortened, focused survey to businesses and organizations in the neighborhood. Observations should be conducted during peak hours and in the late afternoon, to observe park attendees and assess lighting and trash.

These changes would bring in more responses, and help Downtown Framingham, Inc. and Sudbury Valley Trustees develop positive policy recommendations for the green spaces and parks of Downtown Framingham.