Building Connections to the Minute Man National Historic Park: Greenway Planning and Cultural Landscape Design
The Minute Man National Historic Park (NHP) in Massachusetts commemorates the Battle of Lexington and Concord (1775) that began the American Revolution. The National Park created in 1959 seeks to interpret the battle and restore the agricultural landscapes of the revolutionary period. The Park is situated within the larger Freedom’s Way National Heritage Area (FWNHA) that was designated in 2009 to preserve the extensive historic cultural resources of the region, including such gems as Thoreau’s Walden Pond.
Unfortunately, the Minute Man NHP is divided into four units and bisected by a busy state highway that makes wayfinding challenging for visitors. Moreover, the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the Minute Man NHP “as one of America’s most endangered Places” (NTHP, 2003) due to the impacts of surrounding traffic, noise, and incompatible developments. There are several existing and proposed projects including the Battle Road Trail, Minute Man Bike Trail and Scenic Byway that have the potential to link the Park’s resources, but key connections are missing to create a coherent network.
To address these challenges, this project, a partnership between the US National Park Service, FWNHA, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst uses greenways as an organizing element to improve pedestrian and bike connections from the Park to the many nearby historic, cultural, and recreation resources, while providing visitors an alternative to touring the park by car. An undergraduate landscape architecture studio under the direction of the authors developed a greenway plan for the surrounding area with regional connections, as well as designed key sites and corridors along this greenway network that act as gateways and nodes for cultural and historical interpretation.
This project exemplifies the challenges of historic and cultural planning within a developed suburban setting where local and regional recreation demands put pressure on historic landscapes. In addition, the fact that several key sites are outside the jurisdiction of the National Park in municipal, non-profit, or private ownership exemplifies the need for collaborative planning efforts. Finally, the project shows the management issues that continue after designation of historic corridors.