I wrote awhile ago about the "postcard test" -- if you'd buy a postcard of a streetscape, it's a good measure that it's likely to be a livable, pedestrian-friendly place.
Now, upon returning from a two-week holiday, I'd like to offer up a corollary: the "vacation test": Is your community a place where someone would want to spend some free time?
Of course, not every town can be an ocean-front retreat or idyllic mountain resort. And not every community can be a place where out-of-towners want to spend a week.
But if your town isn't a place where someone would want to spend even half a day, finding something to enjoy and hold their interest, well, what does that say about it as an appealing place to live beyond your own private space? True quality of life requires quality shared public space along with one's own private home.
After spending some time overseas earlier this month, in towns that are so pretty, compact and walkable, it's clear that this is a much lower priority in much of America than, say, many countries in Europe.
In Framingham, along with our largely pedestrian-hostile but regionally appealing shopping (Rte. 9) and eateries, movies and arts center, we're fortunate to have the botanical jewel Garden in the Woods. I was there over the weekend, and it was definitely attracting a crowd from well beyond the town's borders. With so many things in full bloom and beautiful walking paths, it definitely passed the vacation test as someplace you'd want to enjoy on a day off. Callahan State Park is another.
However, our neighborhoods could use even more public space where it would be so pleasant to while away an afternoon, outsiders would be drawn there as well as locals.