New Report on Hartford, CT, Park System
Hartford, CT, 12/11/2007: Hartford’s park system is an impressive resource of national significance, but needs greater funding, marketing, and connectivity to return to its former grandeur and play a role in the city’s unprecedented economic comeback.
So says a new report, “Renewing a Historic Legacy,” released today by The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization with a focus on urban parks.
After reviewing dozens of recommendations contained in the report, Mayor Eddie A. Perez accepted the report and says he will use it as a foundation to work with City Council and key departments to achieve a number of goals including:
- Increase public awareness and promotion of the park system to highlight the assets of these jewels;
- Increase the number of residents and “friends of the park” participation in improvements and then helping to protect these investments
- Working with City Council on revenue generating ideas as well as other short and long term park improvements
- Utilize the Mounted Police to promote community policing, increase security, and improve public perception of our parks
Speaking at a press conference in Bushnell Park, Mayor Perez said, “It’s appropriate for us to gather here at Bushnell Park, created over 150 years ago as the nation’s first publicly financed park. Our ancestors saw the wisdom in creating beautiful, welcoming public spaces as an essential part of a thriving city. For more than 25 years, however, our parks have dropped in priority because other economic needs have dominated our attention such as education, public safety, and economic development. We want our parks to rise again – as the city is rising again-to be part of the quality of life our city residents and visitors deserve. I thank The Trust for Public Land for these recommendations that we can build on.”
The Trust for Public Land’s Peter Harnik, author of the report, said, “Hartford’s park system has fewer employees than it did decades ago. Despite the Herculean commitment of volunteers and private donors, years of deferred maintenance have diminished the quality of park landscapes and buildings to the point that this historic resource is at risk. The time to act is now, and we hope our short-term and long term recommendations provide a path to solutions.”
The study, underway for the past year, involved interviews with dozens of city officials, park advocates, and residents. “We are grateful for the involvement and cooperation of Mayor Perez and his administration, who clearly have a vision and commitment to improving the city’s parks,” said David Queeley, TPL’s Parks for People/New England Director. “TPL is eager to move into Phase II of this project, which is working with the city and its residents to implement some of the recommendations.”
The TPL study says that while Hartford has an impressive amount of parkland for a city of its size and population and has an extensive network of park Friends groups, more needs to be done. The report suggests that a concerted effort by the city might bring in more state and federal grants, as well as corporate partnerships.
The study also lauded Hartford’s strong network of park support organizations, such as Riverfront Recapture, Friends of Keney Park, Friends of Colt Park, Friends of Pope Park, Friends of Bushnell Park Friends of Forster Park, and Friends of Elizabeth Park, but urges park advocacy groups and sports leagues to explore unification as a way to magnify their individual efforts.
The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit organization with its Connecticut State Office in New Haven, works with others to conserve land for people to enjoy as working landscapes, parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. One of TPL’s key programs is Parks for People, which works in cities to ensure that everyone, especially every child, has close-to-home access to a park, playground, garden or natural area. To date, TPL has protected more than 4,000 acres of parks, open space, watershed land, working farms and forestland, and historic resources in more than 50 communities across Connecticut.