When urban studies major Peter Peloquin looks at community parks or sports fields, he sees more than open spaces for leisure and recreational activities. He wonders what groups of residents are permitted to use them and what groups are not.
His curiosity began with a baseball field. “I asked myself, ‘What is this not for? Who is this not for? Why was it designed with one purpose in mind?’” he said.
He decided to explore the questions for his urban studies capstone project, which he presented at the Celebration of Scholarship and Creativity on April 18.
Peloquin’s research was limited to the Worcester Common, Elm Park, and Crompton Park, and the ice skating that happens at each.
“Within these spaces, I looked at the decisions made involving accessibility, lifestyle needs, citizen participation, and public policies,” he said.
He found that each park has a hierarchy in their levels of inclusion and exclusion. “Ice skating rinks were the biggest indicator of this,” Peloquin said
The Common, located in downtown Worcester, has a professionally built rink. There are rink fees, rental fees, and refundable deposits the user must pay before skating on the rink.
On the other hand, people can ice skate on the ponds at Elm Park, located on Park Avenue in Worcester, for free “when the city deems them safe,” he said.
Meanwhile, Crompton Park, located on Canton Street in Worcester, “has a community-developed, -run, and -maintained ice rink on a flooded tennis court,” he added.
“In these three public spaces, the city or the social actors have created the different levels of inclusion or exclusion,” Peloquin said. “Ultimately, the city has the final say, thanks to the ownership of the land and the rules and regulations that are in place.”
This has become more than a class project and research to present at conferences, such as the Celebration of Scholarship and Creativity and UMass Undergraduate Research Conference.
“I plan to find out who, when, where and why the city enforces the minimum fines for rule infractions in the park system,” said Peloquin, who graduated from Worcester State University in December 2017.