Message from Board Chair Anne Brooke

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Anne Brooke thanking Members and supporters at the 2015 Summer Party (Photo: Piece Harman)

 

Dear Friends,

It has been a wonderful year for the Friends and our three treasured greenspaces. Our work in 2015 has brought so many plans and projects to life that have improved the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall. One might say that how it all comes together is magical, and sometimes it feels that way, but it is actually the efforts and generous support of many individuals that make it possible.

Thank you to my fellow Board members, our dedicated Members, volunteers, donors, and our talented Executive Director and staff. Each of you makes a difference in all that you do.

You are these parks’ greatest supporters and advocate voices. Because of your contributions, more than $1 million was invested in parks care and programs in 2015, the restoration of the Garden’s George Robert White Memorial fountain will break ground in the spring of 2016, 10 trees and three benches are newly sponsored, and so much more.

We kindly ask that you continue your stewardship by renewing your Membership before the end of the year, inviting friends to join, and delighting someone with a gift of Membership.

We look forward to working together with you in the new year to continue raising the level of excellence in these three greenspaces we care for in partnership with the City. As you know, it takes a great deal of work, advocacy, and money to maintain and improve them; and sometimes a little magic, too. You are the magic that makes it happen and we can’t do it without you.

Wishing you a happy and safe holiday season,

Anne Brooke

Chair, Friends of the Public Garden

Looking back at 2014

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We are pleased to report that 2014 will go down as a milestone year for the Friends of the Public Garden in working with the City to care for the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall. Please join us in celebrating the completion of a successful year of accomplishments, none of which would have been possible without you. Highlights of the year can be viewed in our 2014 Year in Review.

In 2014, we invested $952,000 directly into parks care, with an additional $1.6 million spent to complete the Brewer project on the Common. We also made significant progress on goals set out in our five-year strategic plan, which you can read more about on page 8 our Annual Review.

This has also been a year of relationship building with Mayor Walsh, our newly elected city and state officials, and the City’s newly appointed Parks Commissioner, Chris Cook. We look forward to continuing our four-decade partnership with the City, to care for and improve our three treasured parks.

As we continue to advocate for our parks, we appreciate your help in these efforts. Members voiced concern over the condition of the Boston Common following the Freedom Rally (also known as Hempfest), and many submitted letters. Your concerns and ours were shared with the Parks Department, to be considered when the group applies for its next permit. We must be continually vigilant to make sure that events on the Common enhance the public’s enjoyment of the park while at the same time mitigating the damage caused, in order for this intensively used space to thrive over the long term.

“Ah, the great indoors,” said no one ever was one of several phrases that appeared on eye-catching signage at MBTA sites throughout the city, courtesy of a generous and creative marketing campaign by Boston communications firm Hill Holliday. These signs engaged new audiences, introduced them to our organization, and served as a reminder of our work to those who know us.

As Bostonians flocked to Brewer Fountain Plaza, they let us know how much they enjoyed the enhanced area despite lunching near the last phase of our construction fencing. The project sailed to a November finish, marking the completion of the most ambitious capital project in the Friends history.

A major milestone of 2014 came in the last few days of the year when we finalized purchase of our office at 69 Beacon Street from Santander Bank. Thanks to Santander, we enjoyed three rent-free years at a perfect location for the Friends, directly across the street from the Common and Garden and close to the Mall, easily accessible to the public. A permanent home gives us stability, and we are grateful to Santander for a below-market purchase price and to First Republic for favorable mortgage terms.

We thank you for your tremendous support, and we honor you with our commitment to preserve, enhance, and advocate for our three historic parks.

Anne Brooke, Chair
Elizabeth Vizza, Executive Director

Summer Party Raises Roof and Funds for Parks

We were delighted to be joined by 170 Friends at the Rooftop of the Taj Hotel on July 22 for our second annual Summer Party. The event doubled in size from the the previous year and sold out nearly one month earlier. Thank you to our generous event sponsor First Republic Bank, and to old Friends and new who stepped out to celebrate and support the three parks we care for in partnership with the City. Read about the evening in the Boston Herald  and visit our Facebook album to view more photos.

Photos: Pierce Harman

Celebrating Blooms and Updates on Olympic News

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View from Taj Boston

Greetings,

The greenery and flowers that we have patiently awaited are finally here in full force. Spring was an especially beautiful time of year to stroll along Commonwealth Avenue Mall under canopies boasting thousands of lush leaves, to traverse the Common on paths surrounded by green grass, and delight in the spectacular blooms in the Public Garden. Bravo to the City of Boston and its horticultural team led by Anthony Hennessy on this year’s spring plantings in the Garden; they were a sight to behold. Thank you to all who support these parks through membership in the Friends and your role as stewards.

Our work in collaboration with the Parks and Recreation Department to preserve and enhance these greenspaces continues. We met with representatives from Boston 2024 and were assured that the Public Garden will not be used as a venue for events or structures for the 2024 Olympic bid. This is welcome news. We are also pleased that the temporary beach volleyball stadium and ancillary structures proposed for the Common are being relocated. As we continue to monitor news of plans that will impact our parks, we look forward to discussions with Boston 2024 and City leadership to work toward a plan that is acceptable to all. In addition to advocating for appropriate use of our parks during the Olympics, we are meeting with groups that use the Common for large-scale events, to ensure that their impact is managed and mitigated. Our parks are wonderful places to play, celebrate with community members, and find moments of quiet solitude. We want to make sure that they are in excellent condition and available for all to enjoy. Thank you for sharing your voices to advocate for these irreplaceable greenspaces.

Summer is here and it is time for our annual Summer Party being held at the Taj rooftop on Wednesday, July 22! Thank you to everyone who purchased tickets to make this event an early sell-out. We look forward to toasting you, our members and supporters as we enjoy the view from the Taj rooftop and overlook the parks that you support so generously.

As always, please send us your feedback; we enjoy hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Anne Brooke, Chair
Elizabeth Vizza, Executive Director

Friends Addresses Parks Care Issues at 45th Annual Meeting

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Boston Parks Commissioner Chris Cook addresses more than 150 attendees at Friends of the Public Garden 45th Annual Meeting (Photo: Michael Dwyer)

On Wednesday, April 8th, the Friends of the Public Garden held their 45th annual meeting. Over 150 members and neighbors gathered at the First Church in Boston to hear from the Friends and featured speaker Boston Parks Commissioner Chris Cook talk about the accomplishments of the past year and plans for the future. Open discussion and warm conversation made the 45th Annual Meeting a successful update on the Friends.

The evening began with a greetings and updates from the Friends Board Chair Anne Brooke, and Board Directors Patricia Quinn and Jeannette Herrmann. Elizabeth Vizza, the Executive Director of the Friends, presented a summary of the work that the Friends completed over the past year. She began by thanking members and the Boston Parks Department for their contributions in making 2014 a successful year for the organization. This year, the Friends pruned 330 trees and protected 1,100 from disease. More than 30 sculptures in the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall were cleaned and two of the sculptures, the Leif Eriksson statue and the Robert Gould Shaw/54th Regiment Memorial, underwent major masonry conservation work. The Friends also launched the off-leash dog program on the Common and continued improvement work on the Boylston Street border of the Public Garden. The $4 million multi-year Brewer Fountain Plaza and parkland renovation, the group’s largest capitol project to date, was officially completed at the end of 2014. Ms. Vizza also outlined the Friends plans for the future, including working with the City to revitalize the Boston Common.

Parks Commissioner Chris Cook followed Ms. Vizza’s presentation. He made note of the important strides that the Boston Parks and Recreation Department is making in the upkeep of the City’s greenspaces. Cook’s announcement that a second park maintenance shift will be added this next year, which will be stationed in the Boston Common, was met with applause. Cook also announced that the just-released Mayor’s budget included funding to fix the sidewalk on the Tremont Street border of the Common in front of the Visitor Information Center, which for too long has been deteriorated with major, and in places dangerous, cracks. The budget also includes several other top priorities for the Common and Garden that were suggested by the Parks and Recreation Department and the Friends.

Following his remarks, Cook opened the floor for a Q and A session. He shared valuable information in response to questions, which ranged from “When will the broken fence in the Common be repaired?” to questions about how parks management can address climate change. Cook stressed the importance of the relationship between the Parks Department and the Friends, saying, “Many hands make light work.”

The evening concluded with a reception where attendees mingled with fellow Friends members and discussed the topics of the evening.

Friends BOD Requests Relocation of Olympic 2024 Events

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The Friends of the Public Garden Board of Directors voted recently to request that Olympic events and ancillary structures proposed by Boston 2024 for Boston Common and Public Garden be relocated.

The Board vote stated that plans to construct a 16,000-seat beach volleyball stadium on Boston Common constitutes exclusive use of what appears to be (according to Boston 2024 documents) three-fourths of Boston Common (calculating the area inside the security fence at 32 acres). The construction timeline estimates seven months, and most likely the areas impacted would be unavailable for as long as a year including post-event restoration. Approximately 35,000 people use this as their neighborhood park, and many thousands more from every neighborhood and beyond Boston use it for various forms of recreation and civic gathering. This use would reverse centuries of tradition in the spirit of Boston Common’s origins regarding public rights to use of the Common and non-privatization of public parks. The Boston 2024 plans also include ancillary structures in the Public Garden to support the Marathon and Road Cycling events, directing people to stadium seating through several gated entrance points, with one quarter of the Garden behind security fencing. The beach volleyball proposal would necessitate removal of over 50 mature trees on the Common, while the use of the Garden poses a threat of damage to this fragile botanical garden. The Boston Common and Public Garden need to be showcases for the international community of visitors, and welcome people as places of respite during this busy three-week event, not gated venues available only to ticket holders. They should be improved over the next nine years to the high standards of excellence we are advocating for them.

Based on an understanding of the materials that have been made available to the community, the Board vote requests that “Boston 2024 alter its proposal and move the Beach Volleyball event out of the Boston Common; and furthermore, that any ancillary structures proposed within the Public Garden or the Boston Common to support the Beach Volleyball event, the Marathon, and the Road Cycling events be relocated. Furthermore, we request that no Olympics-related venues or ancillary structures be sited on the Boston Common or Public Garden.”

Please visit http://www.friendsofthepublicgarden.org/olympics for more information.

2015 Brings a Permanent Address, Water to White, and a Chronicle of Boston Common History

Photo: Caroline Phillips-Licari
Photo: Caroline Phillips-Licari

Dear Friends,

As we enter 2015, we are excited to have much good news to share with you. At the end of 2014, we finalized purchase of our office at 69 Beacon Street from Santander Bank. Thanks to Santander, we have enjoyed three rent-free years at a perfect location for the Friends, directly across the street from the Common and Garden and easily accessible to the public. The bank worked out a very favorable purchase price for us that was significantly below market. Thanks to Santander’s generosity, we now begin 2015 from a much firmer foundation in our permanent home. We are also grateful to First Republic Bank for a very favorable mortgage rate.

Thanks to many generous supporters and the leadership of neighbors who started us down this road, we are $18,000 short of reaching our $700,000 fundraising goal needed to restore and establish a maintenance fund for the fountain at the George Robert White Memorial – known as the “Angel” – in the Garden. Plans are being developed, approvals will be sought, and our goal is to break ground in mid-July for completion early in the fall. After many decades as a dry basin, water will flow there once again!

We are working with the Parks Department to launch the Year of the Common. Together with the City we must enhance safety on the Common, improve the park’s condition and maintenance, and ensure that use is managed to allow all to enjoy this popular greenspace while safeguarding its long-term health. A Cultural Landscape Report is being prepared that chronicles the 380-year history and evolution of the park from pasture to versitile 21st century park.

Anne Brooke, Chair
Elizabeth Vizza, Executive Director