Wicked Hot Poster

Most people in Arlington are aware of high temperatures being an issue – and about half of them think it is an important one. That is among the results publicly revealed recently in an in-person presentation led by, among others, local teens.

The workshop by the Wicked Cool Mystic project took place Dec. 9 at the Arlington Community Center, lasting two hours, with 10 participants ranging across from students to senior citizens.

Arlington Mystic River ambassadors Clara Schneider and Elise Kempf, both seniors at Arlington High School, described the findings, along with Marissa Zampino, community organizer at Mystic River Watershed Association.

Participants discussed rising temperature concerns and learned about “Arlington Heat Vulnerability and Safety Survey Results,”  based on surveys in the first half of 2023 conducted in English, Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese and Haitian Creole.

The survey revealed that from February to June 2023, 91 percent of the Arlington residents surveyed said that they were aware of high temperature being an issue in the community. Based on the data collected in the Wicked Cool Mystic project, 54 percent of those who took the survey think high heat is a very important local concern during a typical summer. “It’s good to see that people think the rising temperature is an issue and want to see the cooling solutions be implemented,” Kempf commented.

“The biggest thing we learned is that the residents don’t want the big-tech solutions. People just want simple solutions, and the solutions already exist in major cities,” said Zampino.

Shaded bus stops suggested
From left, the presenters, Marissa Zampino, Elise Kempf, Clara Schneider at the Dec. 9, 2023, workshop. /  Crystal Lin photo 

High heat has affected Arlington quite recently. For examle, soaring temperatures coupled with lack of on-campus air-conditioning equipment necessitated temporary early dismissal of some public schools locally as recently as September.

A potential partial solution that the team has been working on is implementing shaded bus stops in Arlington. Some funds may be available.

According to Zampino, “One shaded bus stop can cost anywhere from 10 to 20k.”

Fortunately, the Wicked Cool Mystic project currently receives funding from the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program (MVP). The state grant program states that its intention is to “support Massachusetts cities and towns as they build resilience to climate change.”

Teens continue commitment to cause

William Stalcup, a resident of Arlington, discussed how he felt better informed after participating in such events in the past. “I thought I could continue the process by coming to this event,” he said.

Schneider highlighted how positive the experience has been working on the Wicked Cool Mystic project. “My favorite thing is I get to talk to town residents. I’ve been involved in a lot of environmental activism before, but most of it wasn’t as interpersonal as this project, so I really enjoyed getting to find out the town residents’ concerns directly. I find that valuable,” she said. Schneider has been involved in environmental activism all her high school years and is intrigued by the interdisciplinary nature of environmental science.

Obstacles recognized; work continues

Schneider also commented on the difficulty of reaching certain population subgroups during the project. “We’re trying to reach more vulnerable populations, but sometimes those are harder to communicate with. I know [that] a lot of senior [citizen] residents who are more vulnerable to extreme heat often don’t have internet access.”

Those who speak other languages than English are another group that’s vulnerable to extreme heat, so it’s harder to distribute surveys to them as well, she said.

Moving forward, Kempf emphasized, “Awareness is a big part of it, and the extreme heat is a problem that people don’t really know what is happening and how individuals can have an impact.” According to her, a big obstacle facing the Wicked Cool Mystic project is receiving adequate funding to implement the solutions that residents hope to see.

To Kempf, the goal is “figuring out what people want in the community, because it’s not just about climate change as a whole, but people are physically uncomfortable and even unsafe to some extent in extreme heat in the summer.”

Donations to the project can be made here >>  

Dec. 4, 2023: Wicked Cool Mystic held public workshop on heat concerns, including recent data

This article with photos by Crystal Lin -- Boston University sophomore and YourArlington's newest freelancer -- was published Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024, and underwent minor wordsmithing Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024.