The last few weeks have seen a significant increase in publicity around the proposed Winthrop Square development and its potential impact on Boston Common and the Public Garden, with four articles in The Boston Globe alone. The more light shed on this potential dimming of our parks, the more people will understand the importance of this issue.
At the same time, there are comment opportunities and government actions between now and the end of January that we want you to be aware of. We are eager to engage with city and state officials, other organizations, the development community, and citizens like you as we strive to ensure good public policy that allows development while protecting our parks.
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?
What to say: See below for sample message, which we encourage you to personalize.
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.
Taking a seat on the sidelines in the Public Garden just got better with the addition of three new benches! This installation marks the $85,000 Phase III of our Boylston Street border project. We invite you to have a seat, enjoy the view, and let us know what you think.
Thank you to our members for their support that makes this and other improvements possible.
The finalists for the Friends of the Public Garden’s Instagram contest have officially been announced. The contest, honoring the Friends Membership Month, received a total of 167 entries, 41 participants, and a combined total of 15,568 photo “likes.” Though we had many beautiful, interesting, and creative pictures submitted into the contest, these five participants received the highest amount of “likes” on each of their individual photos in order to become finalists.
One photo will be chosen at the Meet the Friends reception on April 30th. Attendees will vote for their favorite picture and the person whose photo receives the most votes will win a one-year membership to the Friends and two tickets to our Summer Party slated for July.
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.”
“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”-Lewis Carroll.
The historic amount of snowfall this winter looks beautiful in our parks, but poses some challenges to trees and shrubs. Some obvious impacts are snow and ice breakage. Species with brittle wood, such as elms and zelkovas, can lose limbs from the weight of the ice and snow, especially during windy snowstorms. Another common impact is from salt, which is commonly spread on roads as ice melt. Salt gets into the water that is taken up by the trees, and can also be blown onto trees by the wind. Most trees cannot tolerate much salt exposure without suffering significant dieback. Some other impacts of the wintery weather are less obvious. Prolonged very cold temperatures can cause root dieback, although the amount of snow we have had does provide insulation. Most winter damage to plants is not caused just by the cold temperatures, but by fluctuations in temperature. Trees can develop “frost cracks” caused by the winter sun, along the trunk of the tree. And evergreen trees are susceptible to “winter kill”, which happens on sunny winter days, when the sunshine tricks the tree into trying to photosynthesize. The problem is that when the ground is frozen, the tree cannot draw water up through its roots, which is required for photosynthesis. This results in dieback of the tree.
Fortunately for us, the ongoing tree care that the Friends provides in our three parks creates resilience to stress in the trees. The pruning that we’ve undertaken in all our parks reduces the likelihood of snow and ice breakage, and stimulates the trees to grow more vigorously, which enables them to withstand the stress of the cold temperatures. One unknown of this historic winter of deep snowpack – estimated to be the equivalent of 4”-7” of water – is whether our trees will become susceptible to soil and tree-related diseases that are caused by excess water in the ground.
Nevertheless, and although it is hard to believe now, spring really is right around the corner. The trees will shake off their dormancy and many will burst forth their flowers, followed by their new, pale leaves.
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.
On February 4, the Friends will present, “Searching for the Histories of Boston’s Public Garden,” a lecture by Boston University Professor Keith N. Morgan. It will be a fascinating exploration of the origin of America’s first public botanical garden, the changes it has gone through, and the importance of the garden and its contents today. Need more convincing? Here are five reasons you should attend Keith Morgan’s lecture:
There is much more to the history of Boston’s Public Garden than you might think. Did you know that the beautiful botanical garden almost didn’t exist? The space was nearly approved for residential buildings.
The pictures you have taken of the trees, ducklings, bridge, and plantings are, well, more than just pretty pictures. Learn stories behind of some of Boston’s most photographed scenes, like the famous books and art inspired by the Public Garden, including Robert McCloskey famous children’s book “Make Way for Ducklings” and Maurice Prendergast’s immense collection of sketches of the Public Garden.
Hear about this journey of this historic place through time from a passionate historian. The bridge we now love was criticized when it was first built, Henry James calling it “exaggerated.”
Was the Public Garden under water before it was the Public Garden? View historical maps to find out what Boston looked like as the Public Garden came to be. Hint: The stories of finding shells beneath the surface are no urban legend!
This lecture is great way to be entertained while learning about the historic city of Boston, and celebrating one of its prized gems – the one, the only, the original Public Garden. Keith N. Morgan has He has over 30 years of experience teaching History of Art and Architecture at Boston University. He has served as the Director of Preservation Studies, the Director of American and New England Studies, and the Chairman of the Art History Department. He is a former national president of the Society of Architectural Historians, as well as a noted author of various publications on art and architecture.