Project Information


The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) is developing a Statewide Land Conservation Plan. A focus of the new plan is to increase climate change resilience by developing green space in urban areas. The goal of our project was to identify types of green space that urban residents prefer in their communities and how their preferences can promote climate change resiliency. This was accomplished by developing eight case studies on existing urban green spaces, and distributing surveys to and conducting interviews with urban residents. The top preferences were parks, community gardens, and walking paths. We recommended that the EEA consider the availability of parking when developing green space, utilize connections with NGOs, and conduct more data collection.

Executive Summary:

As climate change becomes a more pressing issue, urban areas are experiencing the brunt of the problem (Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, 2017). The impervious surfaces largely present in cities put residents at risk for experiencing increased temperatures leading to the Urban Heat Island effect and more frequent flooding. If action is not taken to address climate change, the world will face irreparable consequences (Climate Change Clearinghouse for the Commonwealth, 2018).

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) is a prominent leader in promoting initiatives that mitigate the effects of climate change. A major initiative they are pursuing is the conservation of green space in urban areas with a focus on the input from community members. Land conservation is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits the use of land in order to protect its conservation values (Land Trust Alliance, 2019). Land conservation has been identified by the EEA to decrease the amount of greenhouse gasses, as well as lessen the other effects of climate change urban areas experience. Land conservation can also provide a place for the community to recreate. The EEA releases a Statewide Land Conservation Plan approximately every twenty years to increase the amount of protected green space. In their next plan, they are emphasizing the necessity of the input from urban community members and increasing urban climate change resilience through land conservation.

The goal of our project was to identify types of green space that residents in urban areas prefer in their communities and how their preferences can promote climate change resiliency. This information will help inform the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs as they develop a Statewide Land Conservation Plan. To achieve this goal, we:

  1. Assessed how prior land conservation initiatives in urban areas in Massachusetts have addressed climate change resiliency and incorporated community feedback.
  2. Identified preferences for green space among residents in urban areas.
  3. Identified types of green space that incorporate the community’s preferences and promote climate change resiliency.
  4. Presented a final summary of the results of the community feedback with suggestions for implementing climate change resiliency.

Research Methods: 

The first objective was accomplished by conducting a thorough analysis of existing MVP and OSRP plans for urban areas in Massachusetts. The team also worked with land trusts in urban areas to learn about what land conservation initiatives they have completed and how they contribute to climate change resiliency. The team conducted case studies of these initiatives and took pictures of the green space encountered.

The second objective was accomplished by conducting surveys and interviews of urban community members. The team utilized its connections with organizations, such as land trusts, as a means to distribute the surveys. Organizations such as Groundwork Lawrence and The Greater Worcester Land Trust suggested venues to potentially conduct interviews. These venues included three farmer’s markets and various parks within our sampling frame. The team also created social media pages to gain a visual understanding of the types of green space urban community members enjoy.

The third objective was accomplished by identifying what the top preferences for green space are among urban community members. Then the team made connections between the top preferences of community members and climate change resilience contributions, such as tree canopies and permeable surfaces. The main climate change issues that were addressed were urban heat island effect and urban flooding.

The fourth objective was accomplished by creating a summary of the results obtained throughout the project. The deliverables were the potential types of green space that incorporates the community’s preferences and climate change resiliency, the set of case studies, the report of results from the surveys, interviews, and focus groups, the questions and procedures used in the surveys and interviews, and the image database.


Our survey was emailed to the cities of Attleboro, Chelsea, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Leominster, Lynn, Quincy, Revere, Salem, and Taunton. Our survey was also sent to the Buzzards Bay Coalition, the Greater Worcester Land Trust, Groundwork Lawrence, the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, and the Wildlands Trust. The number of individual residents who received our survey is unclear. Of all the people who received our survey, 508 people clicked on the survey, and 60 submitted a response. We traveled to a farmer’s market at Campagnone Park in Lawrence, two farmer’s markets in Worcester, and Elm Park in Worcester to use as venues for conducting interviews. Additionally, we distributed approximately 50 flyers with QR codes for the survey while conducting interviews at these venues. We estimate that we attempted to interview approximately 20-30 residents. Of all the residents we attempted to interview, 5 agreed to be interviewed.

Community members reported that green space is not easily accessible. 

The team determined that community members are not utilizing their city’s green space because it is not accessible to them. 62% of respondents indicated that they do not have time to go to their local green spaces. 29% of respondents indicated that it is inconvenient to travel there. 17% of respondents specifically indicated that parking was an issue for them. Four of the five interview participants indicated that parking was an issue for them as well. 14% of respondents said it is too far from where they live. Survey respondents also indicated how far of a walk it is to their nearest green space; 27% said it was more than 20 minutes.

The majority of survey respondents indicated that they wanted to see more community gardens, flower gardens, parks, and walking paths.

65% of respondents indicated that they want to see more community gardens, approximately 62% indicated they want to see more flower gardens, and 60% indicated they want to see more walking paths. Other common preferences in the responses are trees, bike paths, and hiking trails. Some examples of the types of green space that received the least responses were frisbee golf courses, swimming locations, and outdoor entertainment venues.

There are many specific locations and types of locations respondents would like to see green space created.

The team was not able to identify a clear consensus amongst survey respondents for specific locations for green space. 27% of respondents indicated that they would like to see the vacant lots or abandoned building lots in their neighborhoods be converted to green space. Some responses stated specific locations in their neighborhood where green space is preferred. For example, one respondent from Northampton identified “the former Honda dealer property at King Street and Finn St” as a specific location in their neighborhood they would like to see green space. Another respondent from Worcester responded “there’s an abandoned lot on Raymond Street that is usually a dumping ground for trash”.


The EEA should consider the availability of parking lots and street parking when selecting green spaces to protect.

As discussed in the first finding, survey and interview respondents stated that green space is inaccessible to them. If more residents are able to drive to their local green spaces, travel times can be significantly decreased. Additionally, the option to drive can appeal to residents who feel unsafe traveling to their local green spaces by walking. This option can also appeal to residents who feel that their local green spaces are too far from where they live. Overall, the team concluded that prioritizing the conservation of green spaces in areas with available parking can make those green spaces more accessible to urban residents.

The EEA and NGOs should work together to emphasize that green spaces be equitably dispersed throughout cities. 

When writing their Statewide Land Conservation Plan, the EEA should emphasize that green space be equitably dispersed throughout cities. This could be achieved by partnering with land trusts and other NGOs in cities and selecting areas for green space based on how much other green space is around. The EEA and land trusts should focus on creating numerous smaller green spaces that are dispersed throughout the city, rather than a few central parks. This will make parks more accessible to community members that do not have cars or cannot afford public transportation. It will also make all areas of the city have an increase in climate change resilience, rather than just a few areas. This may also address the disparity between poor and wealthy neighborhoods in terms of green space accessibility. If the EEA is able to work closely with groups and organizations with the same mission as them, the success of all parties could be increased tremendously.

The EEA should collect more data from urban community members.

Before finalizing their Statewide Land Conservation Plan, the EEA should perform more surveys, interviews, and focus groups with urban community members. Due to the challenges we encountered during data collection, we did not gather enough responses from urban residents to feel confident in truly identifying the overall preferences and ideas for green space from urban communities.

We recommend that the EEA utilize incentives to obtain more responses. The team received feedback on our survey from The GWLT and other individuals with experience in survey distribution and interviews, including farmer’s market coordinators and community engagement specialists. The feedback suggested that we should use incentives as a means to encourage more people to respond to the survey and/or agree to be interviewed.

While the team did obtain useful data on the preferences of urban community members on green space, there was a lack of diversity from respondents. The Portugese, Spanish, and Cape Verdean Creole surveys were not utilized. The team recommends to the EEA that in any future rounds of data collection with our surveys, they focus on connecting with these under-represented groups.


The EEA’s upcoming Statewide Land Conservation Plan will be focusing on integrating the urban community’s preferences on green space and increasing climate change resilience. The voice of urban community members is something that has been lacking in previous land conservation initiatives. Based on our survey results, the EEA should focus on increasing accessibility through location and parking, incorporating walking trails, parks, and community gardens into urban areas, and harnessing connections with other like-minded organizations and groups to achieve optimal success. If the EEA focuses on these aspects, we believe their Statewide Land Conservation Plan will be successful.