The site has expanded to include 300-plus parks across Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville
As the city noted in 2018, “all Boston residents have a park within a 10-minute walk of their home.”
With that in mind, one resident created a site that makes it easy to navigate the region’s hundreds of recreational areas.
Nate Fishman, an SEO consultant in Jamaica Plain, was drawn to exploring new parks when the pandemic hit. However, he quickly found there was no singular source for researching his destinations ahead of time—not just by location, but also by amenities, events, and activities. In response, Fishman established Urbnparks as a database that features all of these components.
“It was almost like a pipe dream … like, Hey, this could be cool to make as a website,” Fishman said in an interview.
Fishman started on the project in June 2020; Urbnparks went live that September. The site included about 30 parks at its launch and has now expanded to 321 parks across Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville. The info is extensively categorized so that visitors can find places to go by neighborhood, type of scenery, and other features.
Each park also has a page with basic information and photos, plus there is an events calendar that visitors can submit to. It took Fishman a year-and-a-half of compiling various assets and elements to get to where the site is now, and he is working on adding as much more data as possible. Boston alone has over 800 parks.
“The work never really ends,” Fishman said.
Traffic to the site has been steadily rising since its launch. Twenty-three thousand people visited in 2021; 43,000 have visited so far in 2022, and Fishman predicts the number will more than double by the end of the year. He found that traffic increases around the start of the summer and winter months, as people search for seasonally-specific activities, like ice skating. Residents often land on Urbnparks through organic search because the website emphasizes the characteristics of parks they’re looking for.
“Having the website be able to rank in Google has been super helpful,” Fishman said.
Another way people discover Urbnparks is through neighborhood community groups on Facebook where people tend to discuss the best parks to take their kids or hold a picnic. The site permeates those discussions and is becoming a community resource, as Fishman intended.
“I’m just hoping that people find … events in their neighborhood or by interest and meet new people,” he said.
Fishman has lived in various neighborhoods around Greater Boston and grew up going to the Smith Playground and the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Still, the importance of those and other public spaces didn’t come into sharper focus for him until the pandemic.
“One thing I learned personally is [that] I use parks a lot more than I thought I did,” Fishman said. “I think a lot of people are the same way.”
In order to celebrate these green spaces, Fishman partnered with the nonprofit Keep Massachusetts Beautiful to publicize their Litter Cleanup Crew signup on the website.
“I want to promote … keeping these parks clean and making sure they’re usable for everybody,” he said.
While Urbnparks remains a one-man operation for now, Fishman is looking to eventually hire people to maintain the site and potentially expand it to other cities. He sees Urbnparks as a way to strengthen existing communities and help new residents acclimate to the city.
“I do think parks bring people together,” Fishman said.