It is hard to believe that we will be bidding 2014 farewell in just a few days. As I reflect on the year, I am so grateful to my fellow Board members, our wonderful Members, volunteers, donors, and our terrific Executive Director and staff. Your efforts and support are noticed, needed, and much appreciated. Bravo to all.
This year of the Friends will be remembered for many things, perhaps most notably for the completion of the most ambitious project we have ever taken on, the multi-year rejuvenation of Brewer Fountain Plaza and the surrounding parkland on Boston Common. This $4 million investment by the Friends was made possible by contributions from more than 260 individuals, corporations and foundations. We capped this project off in November, somewhat literally, with the installation of cast iron fencing at the edge of the Common near Park Street. The historic fence had been missing since 1895! Now, our role will be one of ongoing stewardship of this area in partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department. It is such a pleasure to see people enjoying this renewed area of the Common and to know that our work will continue to be appreciated by them and generations to follow.
As we celebrate this holiday season, we were thrilled to bring you sounds of the season by hosting several hand bell performances in our parks by the popular Back Bay Ringers. We hope you were able to take a moment to stop by and enjoy the music.
We are so very fortunate to have supporters that truly love our parks and our mission to preserve and enhance them. If you have not renewed your membership, please remember to do so by the end of the year; we need you and our parks need you. Please also introduce us to your friends that may be interested in learning more about our work and joining us in supporting it.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year.
Chair, Board of Directors
I am an ecologist and unapologetic tree hugger, and I spend much of my time in parks looking up at the trees’ canopy. Now that the autumn leaves have mostly fallen from the trees in the Common, the Mall, and the Public Garden, the natural forms of the trees are revealed. Some of them are beautiful and iconic of the species – the classic vase shaped form of the American Elm, for instance, which is instantly recognizable from any distance. The bushy, spreading form of an open grown Red Maple is distinctive, as is the characteristic branching of the Horsechestnut tree, which always reminds me of an athlete flexing his muscles. The old Japanese Pagoda tree’s graceful lines are more akin to a ballerina than a weightlifter. During the dormant season, the many varieties of “weeping” forms are clearly visible as their branches trail down towards the ground – cherries, willows, and beeches. But you may notice something else as well – some of the oldest, most venerable trees appear to have been lopped off at the top! Why on earth would an arborist prune a tree in such an unsightly way?
The answer is relatively simple, but might not be immediately obvious. The very largest trees in these parks are approaching the end of their natural lifespans, which vary from species to species but which don’t generally exceed 200-300 years. Many of these older specimens have some hidden rot in their heartwood, which leaves them potentially vulnerable to damage from high winds during New England’s famous nor’easters, thunderstorms, and hurricanes. Extreme weather events are expected to increase in intensity and frequency as the effects of our changing climate are manifested in our region. To protect against blowdowns, the Friends of the Public Garden has been implementing a strategy called “Load reduction pruning”. Many trees have been pruned to strategically reduce the weight of the canopy. After our last major wind event, we only lost one large limb in the Public Garden, which is a great accomplishment after a high-wind storm!
In most trees this load reduction pruning is hardly noticeable to the untrained eye, but there are a few trees in which it’s quite noticeable – some of the oldest trees in our parks, including the two elms that frame the steps in front of the State House, and one of the oldest weeping willows by the lagoon in the Public Garden. In these cases, the pruning allows the trees to persist despite extensive age-related die-back in the canopy, and for much of the year, to most passers-by (who are not gazing up at the canopy), the tree serves the general purpose of a tree, albeit with somewhat odd proportions. It is only when the leaves have fallen that the odd proportions are fully revealed. I like to think that we value the lives of the older trees perhaps more because of the many years they’ve seen, and tolerating (and understanding) their odd shape in the winter is a small price to pay to have these familiar Boston arboreal citizens persist into the 21st century.
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.
The Friends will be hosting three performances by the popular handbell ensemble Back Bay Ringers this holiday season. Enjoy sounds of the season in historic Boston parks with Friends.
We hope to see you there!
5:30 – 6:30 p.m. (weather permitting)
Tuesday, December 2 – Boston Common’s Brewer Fountain Plaza
Tuesday, December 9 – Boston Common near the Charles and Beacon corner
Tuesday, December 16 – Commonwealth Avenue Mall near Arlington Street
This month the Friends completed its $4 million project to revitalize Brewer Fountain Plaza and the surrounding parkland on Boston Common near Park Street station. The City led the effort to restore the fountain, which was re-dedicated in 2010. The Friends launched a companion project to revitalize the plaza and entire parkland leading up to the State House and along Tremont Street, which over the years had fallen into a state of disrepair. This multi-year effort implemented by the Friends is the largest single project undertaken in the 44-year history of the nonprofit’s work in caring for the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall in partnership with the City’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Over 260 individuals, foundations, and corporations contributed to this community effort.
In warmer months, café tables and chairs, piano music at lunchtime, a reading room, and quality food have made this one of the most popular outdoor gathering places in the city for residents and visitors. Highlights of the project include granite paving, refurbished grass areas, and the addition of 44 new trees. Other improvements include irrigation to sustain prime grass areas; improved lighting; new curbing; repaved walkways; and better drainage. The final piece of the project along Lafayette Mall restored roughly 350 feet of historic cast iron fencing to the Tremont Street park edge for the first time in more than 100 years, between Park Street Station and West Street. The original fence was removed in 1895 for subway construction.
Read previous blog posts on this project:
Discovering Premier Seating on Boston Common
Brewer Fountain Plaza: A Fountain-side Retreat on Boston Common
What’s happening on Brewer Fountain Plaza on Boston Common?
The Friends temporarily installed three frames in the Public Garden and encouraged people to, “Take a photo and share your masterpiece with the world.” The Young Friends group promoted this initiative which celebrates the beauty of the Public Garden, engages visitors, and raises awareness for our work in caring for the Public Garden, Boston Common, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall.
Join the Young Friends for an evening of appetizers, drinks, and socializing to support the frame project and the Friends ongoing work to care for these three parks.
Read about the frame the garden project on boston.com, wbur.com, bostonmagazine.com, and view an “idyllic scene” from Boston Globe photographer David Ryan.