The City of Somerville, MA selected Weston & Sampson to provide design services and landscape architecture improvements to the existing park. This $8.2 million project included significant improvements to a 6.6 acre open space asset that will serve as the recreational heart of the city and neighborhood.
Park improvements addressed programmatic requirements as well as the dramatic increase in climate-related stormwater events on site and in nearby Union Square. With land in limited supply, resiliency planning became a critical component of the design mission. Now with new park amenities, improved layout and circulation, and an intricate stormwater system in place, Lincoln Park has become a civic hub teeming with opportunities for recreation and hands-on learning.
Park amenities are organized around a tree-lined strong central corridor complete with benches and pedestrian-scale lighting. The north-south path provides a more direct commuting route from the surrounding neighborhood to Union Square than the previous, more circuitous way, and new park entrances offer key connections to neighboring streets that were once disconnected. The city’s first-ever skate park and parkour course beckon people of all ages and abilities to move and recreate. Playgrounds for toddlers and older kids, a splash pad, natural play elements, fitness stations, and basketball courts offer multi-generational play opportunities. Parents, caregivers, friends, and partners can sit on expansive decks in lounge seating or at café tables and chairs to socialize or share a meal; a hammock grove and community garden beds provide opportunities for respite away from the fray; and dogs are free to romp in the off-leash dog area.
Lincoln Park’s softball and soccer fields serve dual purposes; in addition to supporting school and city-wide sports programming as well as passive recreation, a system of stormwater chambers installed below the fields maximizes the amount of subsurface stormwater that can be stored. Prior to these park improvements, small, localized collection systems managed on-site stormwater, but were historically inadequate during large storm events and resulted in frequent flooding. The new system directs on- and off-site rainwater into drains and gardens networked to underground cisterns for infiltration, and it includes excess storage capacity for future connections from additional neighborhood streets. Low-flow outlets provide extended stormwater detention for a 25-year storm event (or 1.2 million gallons) without surcharging the system, and a high-flow outlet ensures that larger storms can bypass it without surcharging. Typically, the primary stormwater design objective is to handle runoff generated from the site itself; however, the design process at Lincoln Park provided opportunities to pursue an innovative stormwater management approach that solves issues larger than the park.
Considering the potential to reach schoolchildren through thoughtful design, the team incorporated stormwater and watershed education into the park plans. Lincoln Park’s interactive, education-based elements include an outdoor classroom, rainwater harvesting, and teaching gardens in collaboration with the Argenziano School. The underground feature collects stormwater in conjunction with rainwater harvesting gardens and was designed to be used as part of an urban watershed demonstration showing how water traverses the city’s fabric. This exhibit offers the opportunity for close interaction with a non-static watershed display of rainwater harvesting gardens and bioswales.
Not only did this design for Lincoln Park provide much-needed park amenities, enhance connectivity, and strengthen the neighborhood’s sense of place, it alleviated critical stormwater issues. Perhaps most importantly, the park’s educational mission continues to enlighten youth about their environment with the hope that this awareness will inform their future endeavors (and ours).