Falmouth residents place high value on shared community areas, green, and open spaces. Shared community areas or public space is seen as a valuable way to cultivate greater community identity, social cohesion, and sense of belonging. These areas often share common traits, including comfortable and accessible recreation features that promote social interactions and physical activity. Public space comes in a range of sizes, programming, and zoning types. Town centers, public greens, plazas, and community hubs are examples of different types and scales of public space.
What we know so far (from the Community Survey results and background research work):
As early as the 1920s, the Town of Falmouth began to establish parks and fund community celebrations such as Old Home Days.
Significant growth in the 1950s led to the development of new public recreational opportunities. The public pier and beach at Town Landing were improved and parking expanded. Falmouth Memorial Library opened its doors in 1952 and originally had multiple branches in town.
In 1956, the Falmouth Playground Association formed to create a central area for sports and recreation. In cooperation with the American Legion, approximately 27 acres on Depot Road was transformed into baseball fields, tennis courts, and surface area for badminton, volleyball, and basketball. Today, this is known as the Legion Complex and is managed by the Town.
The 1963 Town Plan, Falmouth’s first, recommended the acquisition of land for future recreational and conservation areas.
The Falmouth Land Trust formed in 1981 to protect open space in Falmouth in order to help preserve the rural character of the community.
Falmouth’s Open Space Acquisition program resulted directly from the Town’s 2005 Greening of Falmouth Report and a referendum vote in 2007 authorizing the Town Council to expend up to $5 million for open space acquisitions.
In 2013 the Town Council approved a comprehensive set of zoning ordinance amendments to create a more village-like district for the Route One corridor and Falmouth voters approved an $11.7 million Infrastructure Plan for the same area.
RELATED MACRO TRENDS
A macro trend highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic is to refer to shared community space or public space as social infrastructure. Like hard infrastructure (often referred to as roads and bridges) the quality of existing social infrastructure is critically important to communities nationwide. Parks, trails, sidewalks, open and common spaces, and other places or organizations that bring people together such as schools, clubs, libraries, barbershops, and restaurants, are considered social infrastructure.
Treating shared community areas or public space as key infrastructure increases cities’ abilities to prepare for, address, and recover from natural hazards. Recent climate extremes such as flooding, freezing, and wildfires all call for mindful planning of community areas, green, and open spaces. Multipurpose spaces provide benefits before, during, and after disaster. Park facilities for example, can be designed to allow residents to shelter in place in case of flooding, tornados, windstorms, or other natural hazards.
A common trend in urban design is to develop shared community areas, green, and open spaces that promote more healthy, livable, connected communities. Also called community hubs, these areas act as focal points for a community and serve all different types of cohorts.
Mason-Motz Activity Center, includes the Presumpscot Senior Room where senior programming is regularly held, offers a place for indoor walking in inclement weather, and provides meeting space to community groups.
Falmouth Parks & Community Programs offers an annual slate of programming, classes, adult education, field trips, and summer camps. They also host a popular Concerts in the Park series each summer at Village Park and the much-loved annual Tree Lighting.
Falmouth has the largest recreational anchorage/mooring field north of Marblehead, Massachusetts, offering some 1,200 moorings. At Town Landing there is a public beach and boat launch.
The Town partners with local organizations to hold several community events each year, including, the Falmouth-Cumberland Community Chamber and Falmouth Memorial Library to host a multi-day holiday event (Very Merry Falmouth) and the American Legion to host the Memorial Day Parade and Veteran’s Day observations.
Falmouth Memorial Library recently reopened after an extensive expansion project adding some 8,000 square feet to the facility. Pre-pandemic the library welcomed over 100,000 visitors each year, 9,000 of whom attended an average of 600 programs annually. The new library offers multiple meeting and gathering spaces for the public.
Falmouth Land Trust preserves approximately 1500 acres and provides public access to most of it via an extensive trail network.
Falmouth Community Survey participants were asked to indicate how important they believed the following social infrastructure and environmental topics will be in shaping the future of Falmouth. Using a scale of 1-3 (not important), 4-7 (neutral), and 8-10 (important), below are the results:
Creating corridor connections between open spaces: 8% not important, 36% neutral, 56% important
Creating and protecting open space: 2% not important, 13% neutral, 84% important
Preserving lands for habitat and recreation: 2% not important, 12% neutral, 86% important
Preserving rural areas and rural feel: 6% not important, 26% neutral, 68% important
Enhancing coastal protection: 2% not important, 17% neutral, 81% important
Creating buffers between development areas: 5% not important, 30% neutral, 65% important
CONSULTANT’S INSIGHTS and POTENTIAL TRADE-OFFS
Falmouth is blessed with an abundance of greenspaces, and shared community areas, including the coastline. In part, this is a function of good planning in the past, and the decision to set aside and protect green spaces. There is the potential to better interconnect these spaces, as part of creating a communitywide network of trails and shared spaces.
Shared public spaces are likely to be more important in the future, especially if the trend to hybrid ‘work at home’ models continue. This will require more investment and increased maintenance costs.
Green spaces are likely to become more important, as part of the overall climate change adaption strategy. These spaces can offer important environmental buffers and help in mitigating the effects of more intense and extreme weather events.
We would love to hear your thoughts!
It is clear from the Community Survey, that Falmouth residents value their shared community areas, green, and open spaces. There is an opportunity to plan for and to create more of this infrastructure in Town.
What types of shared community areas, green, and open spaces do you think will best serve the community of Falmouth in the future? What would you like to see more of; and where?
Comments made via this portal are public. We expect conversations to follow the rules of polite discourse. Messages containing inappropriate content or language will be removed at the discretion of Future iQ.
For more information about the Town of Falmouth Vision and Values project, please contact: