Green Space & Sustainability - Alderman Bob McWatters

Green Space & Sustainability

Somerville has the lowest proportion of usable open space in Massachusetts. At just 6.75%, that includes cemeteries and paved schoolyards.

And only a fraction of that open space is green space. From coaching little league, I know that our playing fields should host only 250 events per year. Instead, they host an average of 430, turning them into mud holes or dust bowls, depending on the weather. 

An enormous body of clinical research tells us that we need it to remain mentally and physically healthy. And because 77% of Somerville’s surface is impervious, we’re prone to regular flooding.

Green space is also essential to combating climate change. On land,75% of the carbon pool is stored in the soil—three times more than in living plants and animals.

These are some reasons why I worked with constituents to increase the amount of usable open space required in the Union Square Redevelopment Plan and include a separate and strong definition of green space.

We were successful on both fronts. But increasing required civic space from 15% to 25% is an insufficient standard if we are to achieve SomerVision’s goal of 125 additional acres by 2030.

I also led the advocacy to hire a full-time arborist to care for our tree canopy. And I successfully advocated for keeping data on trees that could be dying due to gas leaks. 

If we’re serious about expanding our green and open space, we must work together to

  • Increase the proportion of usable open space required in new developments; 
  • Create a green space acquisition fund;
  • Aggressively explore the creation of playing fields on rooftops and along Charlestown Street;
  • Increase building height limits in redevelopment areas to accommodate more open space on the ground;
  • Increase DPW’s budget and training to better care for our living spaces; and 
  • Improve our tree planting and maintenance practices.

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