A dog park, a redesigned Frog Pond pavilion, and other proposals inside the Boston Common master plan

"In the urban core, it's so important for us not to just have green space, but to have really good, active green space, and green space people can be proud of."

A mostly empty Boston Common.
A mostly empty Boston Common. –Michael Holzwarth

America’s oldest public park is getting a facelift.

A draft of the Boston Common master plan was recently unveiled, outlining some of the upgrades parkgoers may eventually see, including improvements to the existing amenities of the 50-acre park.

“In the urban core, it’s so important for us not to just have green space, but to have really good, active green space, and green space people can be proud of,” Mayor Marty Walsh told the cohort of Parks and Recreation officials, design and engineering firm Weston & Sampson representatives, and the nonprofit Friends of the Public Garden behind the plan during a Sept. 16 meeting. “What all of you are doing with the plan design is just amazing.”

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The master plan will lay out the city’s strategy for $28 million in updates the historic park is slated to undergo — money set aside by officials following the sale of the Winthrop Square garage in 2018.

Here are the upgrades being considered for a few, key amenities:

The Frog Pond

Cheri Ruane, vice president and landscape architecture practice leader at the Reading-based Weston & Sampson, said feedback that planners received focused on increasing services provided at the Frog Pond pavilion building, which currently does not have enough bathrooms to satisfy public demand.

“People also noted that there’s parts of the Frog Pond that are underutilized. It’s a pretty big footprint,” Ruane said. “So we took a closer look at how we might be able to rethink how a lot of that hardscape is used.”

According to Ruane, the plan currently calls for expanding offerings at the pavilion building, possibly with food services and restrooms; creating a larger children’s playground; and increasing shade-covered seating, including by planting trees.

The design team is working to provide better infrastructure for multi-season events, one of them being the already popular ice rink that uses the pond each winter, Ruane said. Officials are also considering whether the pond plaza could include a splash pad or umbrella seating and tables.

The Visitor Information Center

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The Visitor Information Center, located at the entrance nearest the Tremont and West streets intersection, is also in need of more restrooms, according to Ruane, who said the building itself is “incredibly small.”

“It really is not serving the intent for tourism and … as a welcome center for folks visiting,” she said.

The draft plan seeks to expand the center and create pathways to connect it to the park’s Mayor’s Walk and the forthcoming Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King memorial, Ruane said. The proposal would also increase available seating and park wayfinding.

Athletics Area

The plan calls for removing the fence separating the ballfields nearest the Charles and Boylston streets intersection in order to make the field more flexible.

“This allows there to be a wide variety of sports and events,” Ruane said. “People can play sideways on the field for younger kids. It really just increases flexibility and allows it to serve a much broader ranger of residents and visitors.”

The tennis courts would also be re-arranged and, adjacent to the courts, the plan proposes an “off-leash dog area that would be fenced and would allow folks to let their dogs off leash in a way that’s contained and secure,” Ruane said.

Entrance at the MBTA Park Street station

According to Ruane, the design team is considering how to “create a fully-accessible route” connecting Brewer Plaza to the MBTA head houses.

Additionally, the plan seeks to “enhance pedestrian arrival with (an) historic-based gateway;” increase wayfinding; and provide “support infrastructure for vending and programmed use,” according to the presentation.

Charles Street Entrance, across from Public Garden

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At the common’s Charles Street entrance, the plan proposes an ornamental fence with “historic replica bollards,” officials said.

“As you cross in, you know you’re going into somewhere special,” Ruane said. “The common is America’s oldest public park and worthy of more celebratory gateways and entrances.”

The design team is holding open discussion forums for topic areas such as park-wide strategies for improvements; visitor activities and play; performances and active recreation; and gateways and edges, beginning Sept. 22.

Watch the full presentation:

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