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Emerald Necklace Parks as Common Properties

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Thompson, James T.
Conference: Commoners and the Changing Commons: Livelihoods, Environmental Security, and Shared Knowledge, the Fourteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Mt. Fuji, Japan
Conf. Date: June 3-7
Date: 2013
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/8979
Sector: Urban Commons
Region: North America
Subject(s): open access
Abstract: "This case study analyzes the common property institutional arrangements through which elected and appointed officials, in collaboration with private voluntary organizations, a not-for-profit corporation and citizen volunteers govern and manage the nine parks and connecting parkways that make up the 'Emerald Necklace' park system of Boston, Massachusetts. These units constitute a seven-mile-long linear park. They illustrate the challenges of governing and managing common property resources which are, by design, open access, particularly when those resources are distributed across multiple jurisdictions. I argue that the linear design encourages members of civil society organizations to identify with a particular park unit, because this geographic arrangement provides localized separable benefits for many members. The parks have no owners, in the normal sense that a common property resource belongs to named and known individuals. The Boston and Brookline local government units (LGUs), plus the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, own the land and roadways that run through or along the parks, or connect them. They also maintain the parks and parkways. During normal operating hours (dawn/dusk) the nine parks in the Necklace are, by design, open access resources. No user is ever carded by an official when found jogging, sun bathing, playing team sports, bird watching, leaf peeping in the fall or otherwise enjoying park resources. Anyone can enter at will and use the parks during operating hours; large numbers of people do. To sustain the parks, officials and citizens focus on regulating uses. Local, national and international visitors come to this park system because it embodies a major landscape design effort conceived and directed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the man chiefly responsible for the design and initial operation of New York's Central Park."

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