Parks: Cornerstones of Civic Revitalization

The Friends of the Public Garden is pleased to be a co-sponsor of the following event. 

FRIENDS OF FAIRSTED LECTURE SERIES 2015-2016

America’s Best Idea: Fairsted, the Olmsteds and Our National Parks
Parks: Cornerstones of Civic Revitalization

The quality of park systems has long been a measure of a healthy and functional society. Our national parks represent a democratic, and increasingly uncommon, commitment to the common good. This talk will focus on how the tradition of public park making initiated by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.’s seminal Yosemite Report in 1865 continues today as an expression of national and community ideals.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016
6:00pm Reception | 7:00pm Lecture
Wheelock College, Brookline Campus
43 Hawes Street, Brookline, MA
Seating is limited and reservations are required.
Reserve online or 617-566-1689, ext. 265

Rolf Dimant lecture

Rolf Diamant is a writer, historian and adjunct associate professor at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. Rolf enjoyed a 37-year career with the National Park Service as a landscape architect, planner, and park manager. He served as superintendent of Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site and was the first superintendent of Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, a national park that tells the story of conservation, the evolution of land stewardship and the emergence of a national conservation ethic. As liaison with the National Parks Second Century Commission, he helped re-think the value and function of national parks in a changing world. He is past president of the George Wright Society and his column, “Letter from Woodstock,” addressing the future of national parks, appears regularly in the society’s journal. Copies of A Thinking Person’s Guide to America’s National Parks (George Braziller, 2016) edited by Mr. Diamant and others, will be available for sale and signing by the author.

Thinking Persons GuideA Thinking Person’s Guide to America’s National Parks is a guidebook like no other. In twenty-three essays, richly illustrated with more than 350 color photographs, authors with personal and professional connections to the national parks share their deep and invaluable knowledge. This book illuminates the astonishing diversity of America’s more than 400 national parks, bound together into a single national park system that expresses and preserves the nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage.

Meet the Trees: The Beeches

Beech

In midwinter it is not uncommon to have intermittent mild days that tantalize us with reminders of spring. Walking through a park on a warm February day, we might even look to the trees for some confirmation that spring is around the corner—a swelling bud or hint of green, perhaps? Alas, all we’ll note are markers not of the season to come but of the season past: some branches retain from the fall a few straggling, brown leaves. In Boston parks, the only trees that do this are beeches and oaks—both in the same family: the Fagaceae. The botanical word for leaves that remain on trees well into or through the winter is marcescent (from the Latin marcere, meaning enfeebled or withered). Such papery leaves hold fast until the wind rips them free, or until the emerging bud of the spring leaf pushes them off. Scientists speculate that the abscission layer, which forms in most deciduous trees to cut leaves off in the fall, is delayed for some of the leaves of beeches, resulting in a characteristically half-dressed look. In the wild, American Beeches (Fagus grandifolia) form mature forest in parts of central New England alongside Sugar Maples (Acer saccharum). These forests are strikingly beautiful as the Beech often reproduces vegetatively, through sprouts from roots or from rooted branches. This can result in a mother tree surrounded by her offspring in a circle, or, if she is dead, a perfect circle of beech trees of uniform age—a fairy circle in the forest.

All but one of the beeches in our Parks, however, are cultivars of European Beech (Fagus sylvatica). There are some striking horticultural forms represented in the collection, including the Pendula cultivar, with weeping, sweeping limbs; the Rotundifolia, with dark blackish-green leaves and a beautiful, round canopy, and the Asplenifolia, or fern-leafed variety, with lacy cut leaf margins: and the Spaethiana,which holds its deep purple color longer and emerges in the spring with a rich burgundy color. It is fitting that the sole American Beech in our parks is found on the Boston Common, just north of the Frog Pond, as one looks toward Beacon Street.

The Friends of the Public Garden cares for 14 Beech trees in the Garden, some of which date back to the original plantings during the 1870s. These older specimens are special both because of their age and size, but also their placement—three of the oldest are near the Bagheera and Triton’s Baby’s fountains near the mid-block Charles Street crossing. One venerable specimen reaches out over the pathway and over the Bagheera fountain, with a large branch that has rooted in the bed beyond and is cabled to its multi-stemmed main trunk. This tree, which may be over 150 years old, is in its decline, but the Friends work seeks to prolong its lifespan. To do so, we may need to reduce the weight of the wood in the crown, since it has significant interior rot and is vulnerable to wind damage because of its weakened wood. Click here to learn more about load reduction pruning in the Public Garden, Boston Common, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

One striking feature of ornamental Beech trees is their bark, which is characteristically smooth and light grey, like an elephant’s skin. Their beautiful bark is unfortunately threatened by two major concerns: vandalism by humans, and a suite of fungal diseases. The Friends of the Public Garden works tirelessly on both of these issues. Together with the Parks Department of the City of Boston, the Friends strives to maintain these parks at the highest level of excellence, to inspire the public to love and respect these important public resources (and refrain from vandalizing them!) And most significantly, the Friends hires hard-working professionals who use the latest scientific practices of Integrated Pest Management to treat the beeches for fungal bark diseases, such as the phythoptera canker and nectria.

Across from the Hampshire House and Cheers, one finds a grove of Beech trees, planted in the 1980’s by two significant early Friends of the Public Garden, Polly Wakefield and Westy Lovejoy. Both woman were long-term members of the Board and Horticulture Committee. This cluster of trees, a testament to these two volunteers’ many years of service, is thriving thanks to the careful pruning, disease management, and judicious fertilizing the Friends has provided over the decades. I like to imagine that in 150 years a new generation of park lovers will look up at the marcescent leaves and wonder when spring will ever arrive.

FOPG_Claire_Corcoran_photo


Claire Corcoran is an ecologist and member of the Friends of the Public Garden Board of Directors. She is a self proclaimed “tree hugger” and dedicated advocate for greenspace in Boston and beyond. Claire lives in the South End of Boston with her husband and three children.

 

Photos by Claire Corcoran

Open Call for Public Garden Tour Guides

 

Flyer_tour_flyer_generic_2016.jpgThe Friends of the Public Garden is expanding its Public Garden tour program in 2016 and is actively recruiting new docents to lead the tours. We are looking for men and women who are passionate about the trees, plantings, sculpture, and history of the Public Garden and who would like to share that knowledge and enthusiasm with others. Training will be provided. An information session will be held at the Friends office at 69 Beacon Street on Wednesday, February 24th at 1:00 p.m. For more information or to sign up to attend the information session, email docents@friendsofthepublicgarden.org.

 

Seeking Volunteers for Boston Common Study of Park Users

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Friends of the Public Garden Puppets on the Common Event (Photo: Caroline Phillips-Licari)

The Friends of the Public Garden is preparing to embark on an exciting three-season study of the Boston Common to better understand how the park is used, the numbers and intensity of various types of use, where park users come from, and what their interests and needs are to help inform planning and management of this important greenspace. We are working with an experienced research firm to conduct this survey and are in need of volunteers to assist. Volunteers and some Friends staff will be carrying out the survey including observing and recording uses and conducting interviews.

Who: Volunteers who are available to work occasional shifts, usually ranging from 3 to 4 hours.

What: Interviewing and counting people on the Common

Where: Boston Common and Friends of the Public Garden offices across from the Common

When: Spring, summer and fall, various times of day (some early morning, some evenings but only during daylight); we will not observe or interview during winter.

Skills needed: 

► clear speaking voice in English, able to be heard outdoors;
► enthusiastic and comfortable approaching park users and asking questions about their patterns of park use and opinions about park issues;
► attention to detail and following instructions about interviewing and observing;
► nimble in making quick counts of large numbers of people while walking around the Common.

  • Minimum commitment: 20 hours (training time + 5 shifts on different days, 3 hours /day)
    maximum commitment: 40 hours (training time + 10 shifts on different days, 3-4 hours /day)
  • Desired work times: flexible, weekdays and weekends, normal park-use times from early morning through early evening; we hope that people will often work together in pairs

Please email us at info@friendsofthepublicgarden.org if you are interested in volunteering for this project.

Monitoring Shadow Impacts on our Parks

Boston Common by Caroline Phillips-Licari
Boston Common (Caroline Phillips-Licari)

 

From the 1970s, our advocacy for the Common, the Garden and the Mall has included protecting them from excessive shadow and wind resulting from development near the parks that would have a damaging impact on these centrally important greenspaces and the people who come to enjoy them.

We believe that development is essential to the vitality of Boston. We also appreciate that it brings new life and positive activity to our parks, and have seen this benefit in the recent growth of the Downtown Crossing residential and college communities. Recently, a project has been proposed across the street from the Common (171-172 Tremont Street) that exceeds the height limit of the Boston Common and Public Garden Protection Zone of the Midtown Cultural District. We are advocating for compliance with both the 1990 Shadow Law and Boston’s zoning code’s provisions protecting the Common as well as the Public Garden. 

We wanted to provide an update to let our Members and supporters know that we continue to monitor projects and seek out information to understand their potential impact, including shadows, on the three parks that we advocate for. As always, we look forward to continuing discussions with our elected officials, residents groups, business community, and developers to speak on behalf of our parks. If you have feedback to share with us on this topic, please email us at info@friendsofthepublicgarden.org. As updates become available we will be sure to share them.