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Advocates weigh costs, benefits of possible Olympic events at Franklin Park

Local Olympic planners and Franklin Park advocates have continued to discuss the possibility of hosting Olympic equestrian events in the park, suggesting the sprawling urban green space, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, could remain in “Version 2.0” of the bid committee’s venue plan, due out this month.

The idea has left park advocates somewhat torn.

Initially, they balked at Boston 2024’s proposal to build a swimming pool and classrooms in the park, and spruce up the golf course. Boston 2024 officials later acknowledged they developed those ideas without speaking to park advocates or users.

Since then, Boston 2024 officials have gone back to tour the park and have asked advocates what upgrades they would like to see.


Christine Poff, executive director of the Franklin Park Coalition, said she is trying to work with her board to come up with short-term and long-term projects. She said she is not sure what effect it would have if the coalition took a formal stand for or against the bid.

“We don’t really know how decisions are being made about venues,” Poff said.

She said, however, there is no shortage of needs at the park.

She said the park could benefit from a dedicated endowment to pay for maintenance, capital projects, and programs. In addition, ornate stone structures, known as the “bear cages,” that housed bears at the Franklin Park Zoo from 1912 until 1960, need to be refurbished, she said. And the park needs to rebuild The Overlook, an Olmsted-designed building that has crumbled into ruins, Poff said.

Whether neighbors of the park can get on board with an Olympic plan remains an open question.

Members of the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association, abutting the western edge of Franklin Park, seem highly skeptical about using the park as an Olympic venue, according to a neighborhood survey conducted in May.


Fifty-three percent of residents said they were unlikely to support using Franklin Park as an Olympic venue, while 23 percent said they were on the fence and 23 percent said they were likely to support the plan. One hundred people responded to the survey, according to the association, which said it shared the results Monday with elected officials.

The top concerns expressed by members were doubts about follow-through on promised park improvements, and the possible loss of trees or changes to the landscape, according to a copy of the survey shared by the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association.

“Franklin Park is a treasured part of our community,” the association wrote to Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “The SNA wants to ensure that, along with other park neighbors and users, our views are taken into account in the discussion about hosting Olympic events.”