Franklin Park leaders: We need more info from 2024 planners

Leaders of the Franklin Park Coalition are expressing frustration this week after a March 5 meeting intended to extract more in depth information about Boston 2024 plans for the park failed to meet their expectations.

In an email to members sent yesterday, Franklin Park Coalition director Christine Poff wrote, “FPC's request to focus on the specific Olympic plans in Franklin Park was not met.”

“We still don't know if the park will be closed for a year or a few weeks,” Poff wrote. “If new buildings and a swimming pool will be permanent features of the park or just temporary. And if funds will be reserved for park reclamation to make sure we're not left with Olympics damage. It's not clear how decisions will be made and whether our concerns matter.”

A critical component of the Boston 2024 Olympics plan is the use of the 485-acre Franklin Park, which would host all equestrian events. Initial plans for the events include the construction of a temporary, 60,000-seat venue on the city-owned William J. Devine Golf Course, a reconstructed 10,000-seat White Stadium, an Olympic swimming pool, the use of the golf course for cross country horseback racing, and the fencing off of parts of the park’s wild areas, including Long Crouch Woods.

When the coalition’s board meets in early April, Poff said they will come up with a specific list of questions to then follow up with Boston 2024 at a later date. The coalition’s annual meeting in May 9 will then give the more than 400 members time to “develop a set of guidelines or filter with which to evaluate proposals that will impact the park,” Poff wrote in the email, sent on March 25.

More on the March 5 meeting: Olympics organizers outline improvements to Franklin Park; some residents skeptical

In an interview with the Reporter, Poff said, “We really need more information. We’re really stuck with how to figure out how to evaluate it. Our job is to protect the park as green space.”

While Beacon Hill activists have been forceful in opposing planned Olympic events on the Boston Common and the Public Garden, Poff and some members of the Franklin Park Coalition say they see how that investment could benefit the park, but are concerned by lingering questions about its scope and impacts.

“We’re unsure how to proceed because we’d love an investment in our park because we need it,” said Poff. “But we’re not sure if the Olympics are the right reason to invest.” She noted differences between projected costs of Franklin Park’s new structures for the games would be less than the White Stadium upgrade, which alone is expected to cost $45 million.

“We’re thinking a lot about the fact that the Olympics is covering open space or new structures. The cost-benefit analysis is really important. We also believe in bringing neighborhood people to the park, not wealthy horseback riders. But if a renovated and stadium would be open to the public and maintained, it could be good,” said Poff.

According to bid documents made public in January, to make the Franklin Park arm of the games work, Boston 2024 intends to “pursue omnibus state legislation to coordinate permitting at the local and state levels” to remove legal red tape around use for the highly protected public land. The contours of that legislation are not yet clear.

“Other big important question is that there’s no process," Poff said. "What role do we have in this? Do they really want our impact or feedback? Who is the final decider on who gets this land?”

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