Section 1 Executive Summary
The diversity of character which is apparent in every aspect of Brookline's community life is present in the open space system and challenges here as well. Open space in Brookline ranges from grand, historic parks and private estates to small pocket parks and public gathering places in commercial areas. It encompasses naturalized sanctuaries which are home to native wildlife and plants as well as pedestrian pathways and green corridors that enable residents to maintain a connection to the natural world, while benefiting from the conveniences and advantages of a denser, urban setting. The environmental and public health benefits that accrue from this open space are considerable and its presence contributes greatly to the aesthetic appeal of the community. In recognition of the variety of open space which characterizes Brookline, this Plan defines open space as follows: 1. Land substantially in a natural state or landscaped in such a manner as to allow the preservation of wildlife and other natural resources; and 2. Land and space intentionally designed to contribute to openness and promote natural resource values as a part of built space. The challenge this Open Space Plan addresses is to protect and promote the range of open space that is essential to Brookline's nature and of so much value. Due to its proximity to Boston, property in the Town was developed early for agriculture and, later, for fine estates. The continued presence of some large properties in open and natural condition is due to protective measures that reflect great foresight on the part of earlier citizens and town leaders. A number of important donations of land were made, and Brookline was an early leader in purchasing large parcels for recreational use and open space protection. At present, a small but significant number of important properties remain in largely natural and open condition. Their future protection as open space depends upon similar foresight today. A municipal policy encouraging conservation restrictions would enable the Town to facilitate donation of valuable open space where that is feasible. Modifications to the Zoning By-law, such as a review of cluster zoning and planned development of large parcels, could give the Town some ability to shape future development of such properties. Notwithstanding the twin hurdles of high land costs and scarce municipal resources, Brookline must identify and dedicate a source of funding for open space protection. Without such bold action, Brookline's ability to influence or affect the future of important open land in the Town will be severely constrained. In areas of town that are more densely developed, residentially and commercially, the challenge is to maintain the quality of openness along with important natural resource values. 1
Creating more pocket parks and public gathering spaces, enhancing green travel ways for pedestrians and bicycles and a variety of possible zoning modifications to protect openness in the context of built space are some of the recommendations of this Plan. Brookline must also carefully steward its open space and natural resources. While recommendations for future recreational needs are being made through a parallel Parks, Open Space and Recreation Master Plan planning process, the community desire for well-maintained parks and additional natural open space and trails is clear. Waterbodies, wetlands, urban forest and watershed resources require vigilant protection in the face of continued development. In locations where these resources are shared with other communities, such as the Muddy River Park system, coordinated joint action is essential. Finally, the open space system in town is enhanced when citizens are given greater access to our local resource areas and information about them. Brookline has made major strides in the past five years in environmental education. The Town should continue these efforts and work for greater access to open spaces for all residents, so as to maximize the benefits of this important asset to the community.
The lasting pleasures of contact with the natural world are not reserved for scientists, but are available to anyone who will place himself under the influence of earth, sea, and sky and their amazing life. Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder, 1956