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iQuilt Phase II: Part 2 of 3

Lighting and Nighttime Use of Park; Water and Landscaping

Kerri Provost

March 31, 2011

As someone who regularly walks and bikes through Bushnell Park after dark — it’s the safest route from Downtown to Frog Hollow as this segment of the East Coast Greenway is separate from motorized traffic — I definitely had some opinions to offer up on the concept of adding more lighting.

When I reached this discussion, I saw that people were strongly in favor of adding all kinds of lights at night. I had to ask, though the group had mostly dispersed at this point, whether or not anyone urging for more lighting had spent any time in Bushnell Park at night. Maybe it’s because I have the Stretch of Sketch as a point of comparison, but I’ve never felt like Bushnell Park was creepy in the evening. It’s not bright enough to read a book outside at 10 p.m., but I’ve never had trouble seeing other people walking around. Besides the illusion of safety offered by lights from buildings, park, cars passing by, and the highway, the State Capitol police often drive through the park.

Though in the minority, I did speak to one other participant who was not enamored with the idea of turning Bushnell Park at night into Fenway. Most people did, however, find it desirable to add lights for strolling, cycling, dining, and to the carousel, monuments, and some trees. Neither I nor the other light-hatin’ participant understood how lights for strolling would be different from lights for bicycling.

A more positive bit of this brainstorm session was that people wanted to see sustainable lighting, though there wasn’t total agreement on what this would mean. We were told that motion sensor lights would cost too much in maintenance. Some liked the idea of using water movement to generate energy for lighting.

WaterFire in Providence was used as an example of something to do.

Another participant noted that having darkness is fine. It helps us to see the stars above. An iQuilter remarked that the park does not need to be lit up the same way from dusk until dawn. The lights can dim at intervals and some areas can be darker. It was acknowledged that the park should be a good neighbor to those living downtown who may not want light blasting through their windows when they are trying to sleep.

With all of the discussion of making the park more usable at night, there was some confusion about the legality of this. Something that got lost in all of this was that Bushnell Park already allows people there after dark, despite what the signs say. There are jazz, blues, and rock shows at the pavilion which do not end until late in the evening. People are not exactly encouraged to linger once the music is over, but the police do not show up to escort people out of Bushnell Park once the sun sets. This past winter, when the light display was up in Bushnell Park, nobody ever asked me to move along. The ice skating rink operated after sunset. More than adding lights, it may just be worth dispelling the myth that everything is closed when the sun is gone from the sky.

Water and Landscaping

Less was said about landscaping than water, but it’s notable that nobody seemed to want to increase the lawn. There were requests for flower gardens, interactive gardens, and native plantings. There was also the suggestion made that walks be connected to the landscaping.

Water, however, is what dominated this session’s discussion. It seems like ever since the rivers were buried, we’ve been talking about daylighting them. Gully Brook, which originates from Keney Park, can be brought back to the surface, according to the MDC. There was noted enthusiasm about this prospect, though a few participants were concerned about the cost. It was mentioned that the MDC could perhaps fund part of the project for bringing water back to the surface.

Ideas flowed forth about the possibility of a “promenade walk” along this active body of water, which could have interactive uses. Some envisioned this as having a variety of edges and having a shallow section. One participant said that “water is a permanent joy in our human experience.” Concerns about financing this aside, people seemed optimistic that a lively water feature would draw more visitors to Bushnell Park.

Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford. To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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