Open space advocates unite

A loose-knit group of park advocates from across the city is forming a small umbrella organization to discover and promote their common causes.

Beginning back in 2005 as a result of a parks-based debate between City Council candidates, the loosely-organized Boston Parks Advocates Coalition (BPAC) has taken the issues of its members to the powers that be. In 2006, they delivered “Green Papers” to the new Governor, Deval Patrick, to help him understand the needs of Boston’s park system. Later on, they organized around public safety and involved the Boston and state police departments.

Now, two of the main players, the Boston Natural Areas Network and the Franklin Park Coalition, have worked together to fund a part-time staffer for BPAC to harness its potential power more effectively.

“All park advocates have seen that there’s a need for a citywide coalition,” said BNAN director Valerie Burns. “We realized that it needed some dedicated administration.”

The two groups secured two grants for BPAC from an anonymous donor and the Merck Family Fund, which will fund two years of operation. Jamaica-born Tamika Francis, a resident of Ashmont-Adams, has been hired part-time to oversee the new effort.

Burns estimates there are 80-120 groups in the city dedicated to some kind of open space, be it a park, an urban wild, a garden, or otherwise. And many more, such as health centers or CDCs, may be considered park advocates as well.

The group’s first meeting under the new organization is tonight, April 30, 5:30 p.m. at the Central Branch Library in Copley Square. RSVP or ask for more info about the group at bostonparkadvocates@gmail.com. In time, the group will also build a website at bostonparks.org.