The following is an open letter to elected and appointed officials and park friends with numerous originators who wrote the letter, followed by organizations that signed onto support the letter. Representatives for the Arborway Coalition, Emerald Necklace Conservancy, Southwest Corridor Park Management Advisory Committee, and more signed the letter. Massachusetts state parks are in crisis. More than a decade of funding and staffing cuts have eviscerated the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) ability to meet its mission “to protect, promote and enhance our common wealth of natural, cultural and recreational resources for the well-being of all,” while digging a $1.0 billion deferred
maintenance hole. The December 2021 Legislative Special Commission report on DCR (p.51) found that Massachusetts, one of the wealthiest states in the nation, nevertheless ranks last in per capita spending on state and municipal parks.
The first-ever Emerald Necklace Parkfest will be the year’s biggest event for Olmsted Now, which is Greater Boston’s Olmsted Bicentennial. This free event will on Sept. 24 will span across parks of the Emerald Necklace, and will include free performances, kids' activities, art, games, dancing, and more. There will be picnic zones, parade decorating, data "community listening boards", and Necklace-wide scavenger hunts to prompt exploring the parks. Community groups and organizations will also be showcasing the ways they make the Greater Boston a great place for parks and public spaces.
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.