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 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 As updates become available we will be sure to share them.

Anne Mostue: Walking into Blossoming Volunteer Opportunities

Friends Rose Brigade co-leaders Carl Foster and China Altman with Anne Mostue (right)

Anne Mostue became a Member of the Friends of the Public Garden in 2013 when she moved back to Boston after several years away. She was born here and grew up nearby. Boston radio listeners may find Anne’s name (and voice) familiar. She works as an anchor for Bloomberg Radio in Boston, 1200 AM and 94.5 FM HD-2. Previously, she was an on-air reporter/producer for WGBH, the NPR and PBS station airing in all six New England states.


We asked Anne how she became aware of the Friends of the Public Garden and this is what she told us: “I learned about the Friends when I became a volunteer rose gardener! One day I was walking through the Public Garden, admiring the flowers and missing the garden I had when I lived in Maine. It occurred to me that the city might need help, and wouldn’t that be an ideal volunteer opportunity? I made a few calls and found China Altman, who leads the Rose Brigade.”

The Friends of the Public Garden works in partnership with the city to care for the Common, Garden, and Mall. The volunteer Rose Brigade has worked for 28 years to care for the roses, including planting new bushes and weekly pruning, deadheading, and clean-up of beds. Anne says, “Working in the beds every week actually feels like an escape from the city. We’re dirty and completely absorbed in each bud and bush. I look forward to my time in the garden all week.”

Anne started with the Friends as a Rose Brigade volunteer and then began attending Friends events including those hosted by our Young Friends group. She has become a very active park steward who now also serves on our Council, and recently became co-chair of the Young Friends group.

We asked Anne to share something that she has learned from working with the Friends. She says, “People might be surprised to learn that the city can only do so much, so volunteers step in – to garden and also to advocate for the open space and its preservation.”



Meet Michael Fenter: Park Stewardship in Action

Michael Fenter

Michael Fenter has been a Member of the Friends of the Public Garden since 2010. He learned about the Friends through Board member Margaret Pokorny when they were working on community projects together. The Mall is special to Michael and he considers it to be his “front yard”. He has lived in many cities and believes there is nothing quite like the parks in Boston. He enjoys seeing the seasons change in them and says, “the parks are an ever-changing living canvas of nature right in the middle of modern living.”

The parks mean so much to Michael that he has helped care for them by volunteering in a variety of ways for Mall projects, including fundraising efforts for a sponsored tree in memory of people who died from AIDS and ongoing litter and graffiti clean up. He also participates in his employers’ match program, ensuring that his contributions and volunteer hours go even further with a match from Microsoft.  He explains the Friends and sometimes hands out informational materials, as he responds to people’s questions while volunteering or walking his dogs along the Mall

“One way to enhance and restore these parks is to educate the next generation of stewards,” says Michael. He started an annual “Keeping It Clean” day for his nephews’ school where the children come and clean litter on the Mall from Arlington Street to the Kenmore block. They are rewarded with pizza and bowling for their volunteer hours! He believes these parks are a legacy for past and future citizens to treasure. “The main reason to join the Friends is because it is our responsibility to preserve these living treasures for the next generation,” he added.

Boston Common Receives Lime Treatment


The white dusting appearing on the grassy areas of Boston Common over the next few days is not made up of snowflakes that we traditionally expect to see this time of year. Warmer temperatures have made it possible for us to fit in one more needed treatment to help trees, turf and soil on the Common. The treatment will support better root growth and development, provide plant nutrients, increase disease resistance, and correct several conditions that are causing additional stress on the plant life in this heavily used urban park.

Meet the Friends: Anne Swanson, a Passionate and Longtime Friend

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Anne Swanson has been a member of the Friends almost since the early 1980s.  Before joining, Anne volunteered picking trash up in the Public Garden. Through this activity Anne met other people just as passionate about the parks and discovered the Friends of the Public Garden. She quickly got involved and used her editing skills by volunteering to help with programming for the Victorian Promenade, created in the 1970s by the Friends to bring attention to the parks with a positive and festive event. Anne remembers The Victorian Promenades fondly: people dressed in period costume, a croquet game played in whites, and one year Henry Lee dressed in his great-grandfather’s military uniform! History was brought to life with the Promenades.

One of Anne’s favorite things about the three parks the Friends cares for is their deep and rich histories that few parks can claim. The Public Garden’s origins as the first public botanical garden in the country, and the efforts of Bostonians to ensure that it would remain a public garden, make it special. The Boston Common boasts centuries of history, but the Shaw/54th Regiment Memorial stands out. Anne says, “One can’t look at it [Shaw Memorial] without thinking of its historic impact.” The piece created by celebrated American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens commemorates the first regiment of African American soldiers who fought in the Civil War. The Commonwealth Avenue Mall is her backyard, an essential part of the Back Bay community. Another volunteer effort of Anne’s was creating cards for the Friends that featured historic etchings of the Mall. Anne has spent countless volunteer hours on behalf of the Friends and is a member of the Board of Directors. As a board member she loves working with a dedicated group of people sharing a common mission and finds the way it all comes together to be fascinating.

A sense of community is what inspired Anne to volunteer and to be committed to the preservation and enhancement of these parks. She wants everyone to know that anyone can be a part of this community that cares for the parks. She recalls one of her favorite memories that depict the passionate commitment of this group: elm trees were ailing, and back in the 1960s Ted Weeks, Dan Ahern, and Stella Trafford worked tirelessly to save them by injecting disease-fighting fungicide into the trees using bicycle pumps. These veteran park lovers mentored the present group of stewards who are now reaching out to educate future generations through events such as Duckling Day and Making History on the Common. For Anne, the preservation of these parks is essential for their “function beyond greenspace by fostering community filled with history that accumulates to a spiritual quality.”

Imagine Parks, Imagine Boston 2030

Boston Common (Photo: Caroline Phillips-Licari
Boston Common (Photo: Caroline Phillips-Licari)

The future of Boston parks and public spaces is counting on your imagination!

The City of Boston is developing Boston 2030, its first citywide plan in 50 years. We are calling on all parks advocates to share your voices about the importance of parks for the City, and in particular ideas for protecting and enhancing the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall as the city grows. Boston 2030 is developing a vision and creating a roadmap to realize this vision in time to celebrate Boston’s 400th birthday in 2030.

How to participate?

SHARE your vision by answering a few questions at

  • This is your chance to let the City know that your life in 2030 will be better with great parks and public spaces!
  • If you have a big idea for our parks that will make Boston a better place to live in 2030, submit it!

ATTEND an Open House!

Boston 2030 Open House
Date: Monday, November 16
Time: 4:00 – 7:00 pm — drop in anytime
Location: Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building
2300 Washington Street, Dudley Square

For more information on Imagine Boston 2030, please visit and follow @ImagineBos on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.