Blog - Charles River Watershed Association

Protect Parkland and Open Space for the Public

Posted by Alexandra Ash

12/4/17 1:46 PM

Protecting Public Lands


We are fortunate in Massachusetts to have a long history of protecting parkland, forests, and natural areas for the enjoyment of the public and the survival of wildlife. This commitment to conserving parkland is included in Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution and reflects a core value of the Commonwealth. These Article 97 lands provide us with clean water, recreation, wildlife habitat, a robust tourism industry, and a strong economy. They also play a key role in reducing carbon emissions and mitigating impacts of climate change. 

Residents enjoying the Esplanade

Massachusetts residents enjoy a summer day at the Esplanade.

When a city, town, or the Commonwealth wishes to sell land acquired for parkland or convert it to another use, a two-thirds vote of the Massachusetts legislature is required to approve the change. The process today lacks transparency and public involvement. Bills to dispose of Article 97 land are often filed and passed at the end of a legislative session and legislators routinely vote for these bills, which they view as local issue.

The Public Lands Preservation Act 


The Public Lands Preservation Act, S. 2181, An Act protecting the natural resources of the Commonwealth (PLPA,) will add transparency to this process while codifying the state’s existing "no net loss" of public lands policy. The bill requires that land comparable in size, location and environmental value be offered to replace constitutionally-protected lands lost. The bill also requires the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to evaluate the disposition and make a recommendation to the legislature. 


Protecting public lands is of particular importance to CRWA. The marked improvement in the health of the Charles River over the past several decades has made riverfront property increasingly desirable, and put pressure on the Charles River Reservation. For example, Daly Field, over seven acres of public parkland in Brighton along the Charles River, was recently developed into a  high-intensity sports complex with exclusive use hours for Simmons College on weekdays and a number of weekends. The PLPA will ensure that we continue to protect and preserve the Charles River Reservation for generations to come. PLPA strengthens protection of public lands that are crucial to a healthy Massachusetts.

PLPA is currently before the Senate Committee on Ways & Means, chaired by Senator Karen Spilka (Ashland) and Vice Chair Sal DiDomenico (Cambridge).

View a fact sheet about this bill.

Please Take Action Now 

Write an email to your State Senator urging him or her to ask Chairwoman Spilka and Vice Chair DiDomenico to report out PLPA favorably and soon. Share with your State Senator why parkland and open space is important to you. A sample email is below. If your Senator has co-sponsored the bill, please thank him or herNot sure who your Senator is? Find out here

Contact Your Representative and Senator

Senate Cosponsors of PLPA

Senator Mike Barrett, Senator William Brownsberger, Senator Harriette Chandler, Senator Cynthia Creem, Senator James Eldridge, Senator Cindy Friedman, Senator Anne Gobi, Senator Patricia Jehlen, Senator Barbara L'Italien, Senator Jason Lewis, Senator Mark Montigny, Senator Patrick OConnor, Senator Marc Pacheco, Senator Stan Rosenberg, Senator Mike Rush and Senator Bruce Tarr.

Sample Email


Dear Senator ______________,

I am writing to communicate my support for the Public Lands Preservation Act (PLPA, S. 2181), a bill which would provide needed protection for our public parks, playgrounds, forests, and other natural resource land.

Please ask Chairwoman Karen Spilka of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means to issue a favorable report on the PLPA as soon as possible.

The PLPA would prevent the continual loss of public parks, conservation land, and other natural resource lands as state agencies, cities, and towns divert the land to other uses, mostly for building projects.  The bill would add transparency to land dispositions involving  Article 97 land and would clarify the disposition process, providing efficiency and potential cost savings for municipalities.  The bill would ensure that the integrity of Article 97 is upheld.

This legislation is important to me because ______________________

[Include reasons why the PLPA is important to you. For example: You are concerned about protecting water supplies. The local playground is where your kids play, and you don’t want to lose it. Or public open space in your town  provides the only public out-door recreation space for residents.]

Please ask Chairwoman Spilka to report out the PLPA favorably and as soon as possible.




Topics: Charles River, Boating, Recreation, Action Alert

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About Charles River Watershed Association:

One of the country's oldest watershed organizations, Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) was formed in 1965 in response to public concern about the declining condition of the Charles. Since its earliest days of advocacy, CRWA has figured prominently in major clean-up and watershed protection efforts, working with government officials and citizen groups from 35 Massachusetts watershed towns from Hopkinton to Boston. Initiatives over the last fifty years have dramatically improved the quality of water in the watershed and fundamentally changed approaches to water resource management.