Shadows and our Parks

A typical fall day on Boston Common
A fall afternoon on Boston Common

Dear Friends,

We have heard from our members expressing concerns about the Winthrop Square development proposal, and asking about the Friends’ position regarding the protection of our parks from shadows, in light of recent press about this proposal.  While comments from the Friends have been included in some articles, with varying accuracy, we want you to know that we stand firm  in our commitment to protect our parks from any weakening of existing  shadow laws.

The shadows from the proposed 750-foot tall project in Winthrop Square would reach as far as Commonwealth Avenue Mall and violate the current shadow legislation. The Friends of the Public Garden has consistently advocated for protecting our parks from excessive shadow and wind resulting from development projects that would harm these vital and historic greenspaces in the heart of Boston.

As you know, in 1990, the Friends worked with elected officials and the Boston Redevelopment Authority to draft and enact legislation to protect the Boston Common and Public Garden from damaging new shadows. This shadow protection has worked as intended – it has successfully protected our parks, while allowing robust development to continue in the city. Now, 25 years later, we are facing a new generation of buildings that challenge our  parks.

We believe that we need a comprehensive solution to downtown development projects that threaten to cast shadows on the parks and do not conform to the current legislation. We are meeting with the BPDA, gathering information, and seeking answers to unresolved questions about the project.

If you want to make your voice heard, please contact your state elected officials (Byron RushingJoe BoncoreAaron Michlewitz, William Brownsberger and Jay Livingstone) and Boston City Councilors (Michelle  WuAnnissa Essabi George,  Tito JacksonMichael Flaherty,  Bill LinehanJosh ZakimAyanna Pressley, and Sal LaMattina) directly to express your concern  about any potential changes to the state shadow laws that would reduce the  shadow protection that has existed successfully for 25 years.

Help us protect the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth  Avenue Mall.  Together we can ensure the healthy future of our parks.

Sincerely,
Liz Vizza
Executive Director, Friends of the Public Garden

 

BOSTON’S CHRISTMAS TREE ARRIVES NOVEMBER 18

Photo credit, www.larskim.com
Photo credit, www.larskim.com
The annual gift of an evergreen Christmas tree from Nova Scotia will arrive by police escort at Boston Common at approximately 11 a.m. on Friday, November 18.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of this traditional gift giving, a way to thank the people of Boston for providing emergency assistance when Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital city, was devastated by a wartime explosion in 1917.

Boston’s official 2016 Christmas tree is a 47-foot white spruce tree located alongside Hwy 395 in Ainslie Glen, Cape Breton.  The tree is on a highway right-of-way and owned by the Province of Nova Scotia which is unusual because, with the exception of 1981, the Christmas trees sent to Boston have been donated by private property owners. The spruce is located near the Waycobah First Nations community nestled along the shores of the world-famous Bras d’Or Lakes.  In addition, Nova Scotia is donating smaller trees to Rosie’s Place and the Pine Street Inn.

On November 18, the official 2016 Christmas tree will be escorted by the Boston Police Department beginning around 10 a.m. from Billerica via Route 3 South to Route 128 North to Interstate 93 South to Sullivan Square to Rutherford Avenue over the Charlestown bridge and will weave through downtown Boston on North Washington, New Chardon, Cambridge, Tremont, Boylston, and Charles Streets to enter Boston Common at the corner of Beacon and Charles Streets at approximately 11 a.m.

Boston Parks Commissioner Chris Cook, an official Nova Scotian town crier, Santa Claus, and local schoolchildren will greet the tree at its final destination near the Boston Visitors Center at 139 Tremont Street.  The tree will be lit at approximately 7:55 p.m. on Thursday, December 1, as the City of Boston’s Official Tree Lighting is celebrated on Boston Common from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Action Alert: Parks need your help

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Your parks need your voice!

City of Boston officials are working on next year’s budget right now. Please join us in reminding Mayor Walsh how important parks are to you by requesting an increase in the parks and recreation budget.
Parks greatly improve the quality of life and build community.  The time is now to share your voice on their behalf.
Decisions being made right now by City of Boston officials will determine next year’s budget.  These decisions will impact the quality of parks and recreational opportunities. The status quo simply won’t get us the kind of open spaces our community needs to thrive. It’s time for Parks & Recreation to receive a budget increase.
Will you take 5 minutes this week to send an e-mail to Mayor Walsh? 

 

Sample email message:
Dear Mayor Walsh,
I am asking that you increase funding for Boston’s parks in the upcoming budget. (INCLUDE A SENTENCE ABOUT THE PARK YOU ARE INVOLVED IN/USE MOST.)
Having parks that are safe and well-maintained is a basic requirement, and yet some of our park aren’t meeting that standard. It is more cost effective for the City to maintain its parks than to have major capital expenses for deferred maintenance. In addition to these basics, it’s important for city parks to have high-quality programming, to provide community members and visitors of all ages and backgrounds attractive opportunities to come together for recreation, arts and culture events, and more.
Will you provide increased funding for our parks? Please let me know if you will make this one of your top budget priorities.
Thank you for your consideration.
Your name
Your address

Food Trucks Coming to Boston Common

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The Friends of the Public Garden is excited to announce that the following four food trucks have been selected for our 2016 rotating food truck program at the Brewer Fountain Plaza on the Boston Common (near Park Street Station).  The program will start in April and run through November. Follow each truck on Twitter to get real-time updates.

Bon Me (Mondays & Wednesdays, 11 am – 3 pm)
Bon Me has been serving bold, fresh, and fun Vietnamese food since they won the City of Boston’s food truck challenge in 2011. Six food trucks and five restaurants later, they’re serving their healthful and exciting sandwiches, noodle salads, and rice bowls to Boston and beyond. Twitter: @bonme

blazing salads on wheels  (Tuesdays & Thursdays, 11 am – 3 pm)
blazing salads on wheels is committed to the long-standing family tradition of serving their customers as if they were family. Using only the best ingredients, they offer a menu of healthy and delicious homemade Mediterranean inspired dishes in concert with traditional salads and sandwiches. Twitter: @blzonwheels

Heritage Food Truck (Fridays, 11 am – 3 pm)
At the Heritage Food Truck, their mission is championing local farmers, fishermen and foragers, with a dedication to cultural diversity and menus inspired by market-fresh bounty and house-made ingredients. Farm to table cuisine, although they’re calling it “farm to truck!”.  Twitter: @HeritageTruck

Cookie Monstah  (Saturdays & Sundays, 12- 6 pm)
The Cookie Monstah truck specializes in fresh-baked cookies and brownies.  All of their delicious cookies are baked fresh every day and they keep it simple, delicious and healthy.  Additionally, they have locally-sourced ice cream to go with their baked goods. Twitter: @MonstahTruck

Berklee College of Music piano performances will be back in late April. Lunchtimes during the week 12-2, and Thursday evening jazz performances at 5 pm.

 

 

Performance Added to Leap Year Skating Event

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Attendees of our Celebrate Leap Year at Boston Common Frog Pond event will be treated to special performances by competitive figure skaters Ashley Harkins, Elana Sargent, Juliana Bent, and Nikki Montanaro. Skaters will be donating their time and talent to entertain guests.

Our event welcomes skaters of all ages and abilities. Non-skaters are welcome to mingle over hot cocoa and enjoy the show while supporting parks. We look forward to seeing many of you at this event hosted by our Young Friends group. Register today. 

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.

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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