Why Worcester Parks: a Note from the Tour Guide

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In 2016, my first park tour was a personal challenge and a social media experiment.

It started as an idea, as something quirky and accessible that would break up the monotony of food shots, travel pics, cat memes, and political pandering that is social media. As it was also my first year as president of Park Spirit, I couldn't think of a more direct way to "...promote Worcester city parks for all individuals to enjoy" than physically visiting each park and posting about it online.

In its inception - my first parks tour was a combination of an Instagram/Facebook '100 day photo challenge' and a touristy travel album. In 60 days, I visited each park with a friend, took photos, and posted the photographic evidence of my travels on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

In 2016, the photos were posted on my personal social media accounts, as this truly did start out as a personal challenge and social media experiment within my own digital network. About a month or so into the first tour, I began sharing some of the posts on Park Spirit's Facebook page after receiving several requests to make the photos and accompanying information publicly accessible.

The encouragement, feedback, and response that I received from friends, family, fellow volunteers, and strangers showed that exploring, sharing, and celebrating our public spaces together has the potential to be something so much more.

We are truly blessed to live in a city that has set aside 3,700 acres of publicly accessible green space. Each park is unique and presents an opportunity to enjoy the city in a different way.

For anyone interested in urban exploration, green space, our outdoor activity, I highly recommend taking the challenge and visiting Worcester's 60 (soon to be 61) city parks. Visiting and exploring each space, while learning a bit about the space's history and its regular uses, will deepen both your understanding of and appreciation for Worcester. And, it's a fun/interesting reason to get outside and do some physical activity.

I need to accentuate my use of the word 'challenge', because visiting 60+ places (especially if is in a restricted time frame, say 60 days) within 37.6 square miles is nothing short of a challenge. Worcester's parks are spread out among the city's hills and valleys to the four points of the compass and everywhere in between. Some parks are more accessible than others - from Elm Park's walkability and convenient location on Route 9 to Ramshorn Island's water-locked location under route 9 within Lake Quinsigamond.

One of the biggest challenges of the park tour challenge was the scarce and scattered information about the parks themselves. There was no digital common that collected and made park information (address, parking, features, attractions, history) widely accessible. A lot of that information couldn't even be found online, existing on printed city records made accessible to me by former Parks Commissioner Tom Taylor and by phone call confirmations to the Parks Department.

My new challenge for 2018 will be to create that digital common for Worcester's green space. As I journey to each park, I will deposit and organize all accessible information into a webpage for each park. It is my hope that these webpages will live and grow along with the parks and our use of them.

Park Spirit's mission is to protect, promote, enhance and advocate for Worcester city parks for all to enjoy. The creation and maintenance of a web presence for each park that will document its existence and use is critical insurance that our mission is being furthered on behalf of ALL of the parks for ALL of the people. We need to document, celebrate, and consider the current state (and past states) of our parks to insure that they have the maximum public benefit.

People. People are the inspiration behind my tour this year. My travels in, around, and on behalf of Worcester parks have acquainted me with so many people - park users - that all contribute to the public experience and privilege that we experience anytime we take a walk in the park.

There are so many people, and groups of people, that help to make and keep Worcester parks what they are. Really, by just visiting the park, you're helping to make and keep the park what it is (sans vandalism or disturbance). I'm excited to learn more about the People of the Parks, what the parks mean to them, and why they do what they do.

Parks exist for people and by people. It's my hope that the stories shared here and the information accessible on the web will encourage the people to get outside, to explore, and to take advantage of all that Worcester parks have to offer.