Green Space & Natural Environment

Children walk along a courtyard in a City park.

Somerville’s green spaces are working hard to improve our environment and to keep us healthy. Trees, parks, and gardens provide numerous benefits to our community, including filtering stormwater to keep our watersheds clean, reducing the risk of flooding, absorbing and sequestering carbon dioxide, and cleaning the air we breathe. The City is committed to building parks that both provide welcoming spaces to play and relax while also improving our environment and reducing our contribution to climate change. Find a park or community garden near you!

Somerville’s parks and open spaces are planned and renovated by the Mayor's Office of Strategic Planning & Community Development's Parks & Open Space Department.

6 ways our park planners are addressing climate change: selecting hardy plant species, sustainable maintenance practices, reducing water usage in park designs, improving stormwater retention, increase the City's tree canopy, reducing light & water use

 

  • Green Infrastructure & Stormwater Management

  • Somerville's Urban Forest

  • Urban Agriculture & Gardening

Rain gardens in Chuckie Harris Park

Somerville’s parks provide much-needed recreation and community spaces and help to improve resident health in our densely populated, urban environment.  One important way Somerville’s parks are working to improve our environment is by filtering and managing stormwater with green infrastructure such as rain gardens, permeable surfaces, and water harvesting systems. These features are designed to mimic and restore natural systems that capture and treat stormwater—allowing stormwater to filter into the ground instead of running into storm drains.

Because of our density, Somerville has a high percentage of impermeable surfaces such as paved streets and sidewalks, which means that when it rains, more water runs over our streets, sidewalks, and driveways into our sewer system. During these heavy rain events, some areas of the City experience flooding and sometimes combined sewers become so overwhelmed that they discharge sewage into our waterways. The problems created by stormwater runoff are becoming more urgent as the frequency of intense storms increases with climate change. Minimizing stormwater runoff, controlling flooding, and eliminating pollutants that are carried into our river and other waterways are important goals for the City.

You may have seen these stormwater management systems in Chuckie Harris or Symphony Park. There are others that you cannot see at Marshall Street Park, North Street Park, and Lincoln Park. Find out more about stormwater management in Somerville's parks.

Want to get involved?

  • Help keep stormwater where it belongs by cleaning leaves and debris out of storm drains. Or report blocked catch basins and drains to 311.
  • Catch the runoff from your roof in a rain barrel to reduce the amount of stormwater running into the sewer system. Captured water can be used to water plants and trees. Each spring, the City of Somerville partners with the Great American Rain Barrel Company to offer rain barrels to Somerville residents at a discounted price. For more information contact 311.
Graphic shows that rainwater in natural environments are more easily able to infiltrate the soil to replenish streams and groundwater.
Graphic shows that rainwater in urban environments is prevented from penetrating soil by roofs, roads, and paths, thereby causing more runoff and the drying up of streams.
Pavement and other impermeable surfaces in the urban environment disrupt the natural water cycle, leading to more runoff and less infiltration into the soil. Green infrastructure, found in many of Somerville’s parks, helps to restore the natural system to capture rainfall and recharge groundwater, slowing stormwater runoff. (Graphics from University of Central Florida)

 

Mayor Curtatone presides over the dedication of an urban forest planting in Somerville,, and watches a child read a dedication .
Somerville’s urban forest is made up of thousands of trees that play a key role in helping keep our city beautiful and healthy. Trees remove carbon dioxide and harmful pollutants from the air, help to reduce stormwater runoff, keep the City cooler by reducing the urban heat island effect, increase property values, and beautify the City—and tree-lined streets have been proven to slow traffic. The City of Somerville is committed to protecting and improving this vital resource through proper maintenance, care, and planning. Because of our commitment to our urban forest, Somerville has received the annual “Tree City USA” designation from the Arbor Day Foundation for the past 20 years.

The City of Somerville maintains city trees, but all Somerville community members can play a role in helping to keep our urban forest healthy--so it can keep us healthy!

Want to get involved? Contact 311 to:

  • Report a tree in need of maintenance
  • File a request for the City to plant a tree on your street
  • Volunteer to care for a tree near your home

Find out more about the City’s Urban Forest Initiative and how you can support Somerville’s trees.

Did you know? Somerville has over 12,000 public trees! Over 1,200 new street trees have been planted since 2010. There are 110 tree species in Somerville.

 

Growing your own food is a great way to live more sustainably, eat healthier, and have fun! When you grow your own food, you reduce fossil fuel use in transporting and growing food, contribute to greening and beautifying Somerville, and you might get to connect with new neighbors or learn about local ecosystems and environmental conditions.

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