Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning Studio and Student Research and Creative Activity

Publication Date

Spring 2019


Senior Urban Design Studio Fall 2018 Studio Instructors:

Frank Sleegers, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Gretchen Rabinkin, Adjunct Lecturer, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

UMass Amherst Design Center in Springfield, Department of Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning In collaboration with the City of Springfield Office of Planning and Economic Development



Connecting the McKnight Rail Trail From Mason Square to Union Station, Springfield MA

ARC OF RECREATION 2.0 is a Senior Urban Design Studio that created design concepts to envision the McKnight Rail Trail on an abandoned railroad corridor as a place to walk, bike, recreate, and congregate and to connect Mason Square to Union Station. Arc of Recreation was a name that was coined over 10 years ago through a different project at UMass. Finally realization is within reach. The City published a feasibility study in 2014 and has freed a construction budget of $430,000 for the first phases.The McKnight neighborhood hosts a diverse demographic that would benefit to an implemented rail trail in their community. With health complications including obesity and diabetes, the trail can provide a free means of transportation to the metro center that encourages an active lifestyle and increased employment in the neighborhood. Children will be able to utilize a safe passage to school, such as the nearby Rebecca M. Johnson Middle School, as well as young adults working part time jobs in the neighborhood and surrounding areas.

The trail will connect from Union Station in downtown to Mason Square in the east. Access along the trail route will enable more community members to enter the trail and use it. Therefore it creates a more equitable transportation network that can be shared by all residents.

The Studio created design concepts including first phase tactical interventions that make the street and public space experience enticing to visitors and engaging for the local residents, workers, and their families. The designs reflect the feedback of local community members through community meetings and a design charrette. In conclusion, the envisioned trail will foster community engagement and interaction to steer the future development of the neighborhood.

The following measures are crucial for a successful rail trail:

• Improvement of major street crossings to enable safe use of the trail during all day and nighttime hours.

• Integration of on street bike lanes and the trail to create a bicycle loop around the neighborhood. Expand the downtown bike-share stations for entry points to the trail.

• Create accessibility to public parks in the City through a network of safe streets with extensive tree plantings. Envision a trail that allows for access to the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway.

• Embrace the industrial and underused architecture through public art.

• Protect existing wetlands on the trail through bypasses and boardwalks.

• Raise awareness for the rich ecology on the trail through signage and education.

• Create diverse opportunities to play for all ages and demographics.

• Create areas for urban gardening to connect trail and community.

• Creation of spaces on the trail where the community comes together and hold events and meetings.

• Design for activities throughout the year including the winter season.

• Rezone the trail to Open Space to guide its future development as a functioning rail trail.