America’s great place-maker Frederick Law Olmsted—who created the field of landscape architecture and the Emerald Necklace park system turns 200 in 2022-- and we're celebrating it at Jamaica Pond on April 26. The event will kickoff Olmsted’s bicentennial and honor his legacy values of shared use, shared health and shared power in parks and public space. This event is being presented by Olmsted Now, Emerald Necklace Conservancy, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site (Fairsted) and Friends of Fairsted partner with Olmsted 2022 and Friends of Jamaica Pond. There will be treats, toasts and local legend Gerry Wright, founder of Olmsted 2022, portraying the man himself. Olmsted 2022 will recognize and spotlight awardees for their leadership in parks access and advocacy.
The bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted will be marked by Greater Boston with Olmsted Now, a collaboration to amplify the vibrancy and inclusivity of shared use, shared health and shared power in parks and public space. Initiated by Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site (Fairsted) and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy with more than 100 organizations within a 60-mile radius of the city, Olmsted Now explores these legacy values of America’s great placemaker and designer of the Emerald Necklace park system with a season of public events from April through October 2022. Olmsted Now aims to strengthen equity and community connection through a framework that centers decision-making for bicentennial programs with a Committee of Neighborhoods, Boston leaders trusted for their commitment to under-heard voices and under-served open spaces, especially those valued by their neighbors who identify as BIPOC. The initiative also fosters co-learning through monthly public dialogues to dive deeper into issues related to the themes of shared use, shared health and shared power in parks and public space. And the bicentennial is an opportunity to pilot cross-neighborhood collaboration to create in-park programming through the monthly series Parks as Platform in the Emerald Necklace parks.
As the Emerald Necklace Conservancy prepares to mark the bicentennial of Frederick Law Olmsted in 2022, the non-profit looks to deepen and broaden its community impact with the hire of Jen Mergel in the newly created senior leadership role of Director of Experience and Cultural Partnerships. To expand the Conservancy’s foundational commitment to connect people to and through parks, Mergel will integrate work across the teams in visitor welcome, education and programs. In addition, she will build the organization’s capacity and trajectory to invite more inclusive and impactful park experiences through a diverse mix of partnerships that honor the intersecting wisdom of local elders, the know-how of passionate community organizers and the bold vision of cultural luminaries. Mergel is a nationally respected contemporary arts leader and curator dedicated to exploring Boston’s histories and collaboratively reimagining its futures. As a guest curator, she organized for the Conservancy’s 20th anniversary the landmark award-winning project Fog x FLO: Fujiko Nakaya on the Emerald Necklace in 2018. Since then she has been working with the Conservancy to steer next year’s Olmsted Now: Greater Boston's Olmsted Bicentennial. Named “Olmsted Now” to honor Olmsted's legacy and 21st-century relevance with, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "the fierce urgency of now," the 2022 bicentennial planning has been an important practice field for a growing multidisciplinary coalition to question what park experience is and should be. In her Conservancy position, Mergel is fully committed to building on groundwork laid with thought leaders in park equity, public-making and spatial justice to pilot neighborhood-led initiatives and cross-city collaborations for Olmsted Now.
Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis recently delivered a letter to Governor Charlie Baker calling for leadership and a coordinated vision as it relates to the redevelopment of the Shattuck Hospital site in Franklin Park. In the letter, he outlined how the Commonwealth’s decision to redevelop the site contradicts the Baker administration’s stated priorities “for open space, climate resilience, and natural resource conservation.”
Governor Dukakis states that, “rather than engaging community members and thinking holistically for the neighborhood and Greater Boston’s needs, the Commonwealth has decided to move forward with a plan to demolish the outdated building, which sits on parkland, and lease the land to a private developer.”
Shattuck Hospital, now slated for demolition, currently occupies 13 acres of parkland, a site that was taken from the community in 1949 and, over the years, has joined other sites that reduced Franklin Park’s free and public green space by roughly 200 acres. Now, the Commonwealth proposes a new plan: a 99-year lease for a private developer to build housing for the formerly homeless. Housing for the formerly homeless is extremely important; however, the Commonwealth did not evaluate alternative sites, conduct a feasibility study, involve the many of the communities around the park, nor provide any state funding for the new facilities. This new plan requires numerous legal waivers, and the housing, if all goes according to plan, may take five years to build and does not include supportive services in the latest proposal.
The Emerald Necklace Conservancy is launching its first Winter Clothing Drive this coming Monday, November 8, to help our neighbors stay warm as the weather cools so that everyone can continue to enjoy the outdoors and our parks. We welcome new or gently used winter gear such as coats, jackets, boots, sweaters, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, blankets, snow pants and warm socks. The items will be donated to Action for Boston Community Development and will continue until Friday, December 17. Where to donate:
Shattuck Visitor Center
125 The Fenway, Boston, MA 02115
Monday – Friday 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
James Michael Curley House
350 Jamaicaway, Boston, MA 02130
Monday – Friday 10:00 AM – 4:00PM
Full details on Emerald Necklace Conservancy's Winter Clothing Drive are available online: emeraldnecklace.org/events/winter-clothing-drive. Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) is a nonprofit human services organization that each year provides more than 100,000 low-income residents in the Greater Boston region with the tools and resources needed to transition from poverty to stability and from stability to success.