Open Space Plan


The City of Lawrence is fortunate to have a large park system providing opportunities for active and passive recreation.  This system is comprised of 48 city parks (340 acres), three park units managed by the Commonwealth’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (46 acres), and three city managed cemeteries (140 acres).  The management of this system is guided by the city's Open Space and Recreation Plan (OSRP). 

Updated every seven years, the OSRP provides an inventory and assessment of the condition of open space, natural resources, parks, and other recreation facilities.  Based on this assessment as well as input from the community, a set of goals and objectives have been developed to outline a vision for the community relative to its parks and other open spaces.  The OSRP also contains a Seven-Year Action Plan, which outlines specific tasks city departments and its partners will accomplish to advance the goals the community has identified.

A current OSRP allows the City to be eligible for state, federal, and non-profit funding for park land improvements and acquisition. These funding sources are allocated to communities that have undergone planning to determine how the community needs can best be met using comprehensive programs and investments to address multiple objectives.

The Open Space Plan is now updated every seven years (previously plans were for five years) and submitted to the Massachusetts Division of Conservation Services. Its purpose is to prioritize and identify the investments Lawrence makes in its parks and open spaces. The updated Open Space Plan also keeps the City eligible for receiving state grant funds for future park and recreation projects. 

What is an Open Space Plan?

  • City’s “road map” for open space conservation, acquisition, and improvements
  • Includes parks, recreational facilities, vacant lots and alleyways, and natural areas
  • Must be updated every 7 years and submitted to MA Division of Conservation Services
  • Approved plan allows the city to apply for state and federal grants, e.g., PARC (formerly the Urban Self Help program), UPARR (Federal program, unfunded at present)
  • Plan includes inventory and analysis, community needs/goals, 7-year action plan

Why is open space important?

  • Public health benefits: Parks and wooded areas reduce air pollution and stormwater runoff; and provide opportunities for physical activity (walking, biking, sports)
  • Economic benefits: Safe and attractive open space increases local property values, and makes the area more attractive for business and investment.
  • Social benefits: Parks and playgrounds can help build community - neighbors know each other, children have safe places to play
  • Environmental benefits: Supports a diversity of plant and animal life, helps maintain healthy and connected ecosystems

What kind of open space do we have in Lawrence?

  • 48 parks and schoolyards across the city
  • 340 acres of open space
  • Majority of open space is owned and maintained by the city; several parks are owned and managed by MA DCR
  • Open space amenities in Lawrence include recreational fields and playgrounds, historic parks and monuments, boating, swimming pools, rock climbing, a skate park, community gardens, and nature trails

Challenges to Open Space Protection and Enhancement:

  • Cost of regular maintenance is significant; most grants can only be used for acquisition and capital improvements
  • Limited land available for development
  • Limited funding for improvements, especially in the current fiscal climate
  • Brownfield sites with potential for open space often require extensive testing and remediation
  • Need for community consensus on vacant land reuse, especially for future open space improvements

Opportunities for Open Space Protection and Enhancement:

  • Ongoing renovations of existing city parks
  • Ongoing investments in new city park
  • Linear open space systems/waterfront access: Merrimack, Spicket, Shawsheen Rivers; North and South Canals
  • Greenway/trail development along unused railroad rights-of-way
  • Conservation and enhanced public access to natural areas: Jacque's Pond, Stevens Pond, Den Rock Park
  • Development of city-owned land for new recreational and passive open space (examples include Water Street, Donovan Park, numerous vacant lots citywide)
  • Improvements to school yards; linked to environmental curriculum/ outdoor classrooms/schoolyard gardening
  • Urban forestry, including streetscape improvements and neighborhood tree planting

Questions for Discussion:

  • As the City comes out of four years of significant parks and open space investments, which of the existing recreational fields are now most in need of immediate improvements?
  • What is the highest priority for open space in your neighborhood/ area?
  • What are the most important short-term goals (within 5years) for open space improvement across the city?
  • What are the most important long-term goals (10- 15 years) for open space improvement across the city?
  • How should citizens be involved in the ongoing management, stewardship, and improvement of our open spaces?

City of Lawrence 2009 Open Space Plan Renewal

The 2009 Open Space Plan was submitted to the Commonwealth for review and approved in the summer of 2010. You can download the document below. The renewal of the City’s Open Space Plan was managed by Groundwork Lawrence, under contract with the City of Lawrence’s Community Development Department, and includes additional research as requested by the Lawrence Conservation Commission. This Plan reflects the City of Lawrence’s commitment to improving the quality of life for residents through support of community initiatives and open space improvements. You can download the entire document or portions of it here. All documents are pdfs:

Contact Sue Fink or Vilma Martinez-Dominguez at the Community Development Department at (978) 620-3510 or Brad Buschur at Groundwork Lawrence at (978) 974-0770 for more information.