Going ‘Green’ in the City

The Canal Fountain, North End Park, Greenway. (Photo by Katherine Barnes)

By Katherine Barnes

Sitting on a North End Park bench, the sounds of the traffic, squealing tires and honking horns fade to a hum in the background. The sound of laughing children while playing in the Canal Fountain fill the air. People lounge in the grass to soak up the sun. The smells of the flowers and food is overwhelming.

The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway has been improving since the Big Dig. Gardens and open space provide a place for Bostonians to escape the hustle of the city and soak in some sunshine. Events and concerts draw excitable crowds. The atmosphere of the Greenway, which first opened in 2009, has gotten positive feedback from the public.

“Attendance has increased dramatically, from 96,000 in 2009, to 215,000 in 2010, to 372,000 in 2011, and 622,000 last year,” wrote Boston Globereporter Michael Levenson in 2013. These numbers have only gone up since, last year bringing 801,000 patrons.
Greenway-patrons-chart-2013

The Big Dig, providing more than 300 acres of open space, allowed for the development of the Greenway. However, the area was not always a vibrant urban playground.

It was once an elevated highway turned construction zone. Hundreds of volunteers, such as the Americorps, an ambitious national community service group, worked to clean it up. Plans were not only for green space, but a YMCA, a new center for Arts and Culture, Garden Under Glass, and a museum. But all of these plans were abandoned, all that was left was green space-  not that people seem to be complaining.

“It used to be a disaster here. It was pretty ugly,” said Revere resident Elizabeth Marashi, who was relaxing and enjoying the weather. “When this opened up, it became more enjoyable.”

The Greenway is composed of several parks connecting Downtown to the Waterfront, each having its own individual feel. The parks that make up the Greenway are the North End Parks, Wharf  District Parks, Fort Point Channel Parks, Dewey Square Park and Chinatown Park.

The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy is a non-profit organization that has worked to maintain the Greenway. This includes organizing events and commissioning temporary art installments. Along with these duties, the Conservancy maintains all its gardens organically, the only park in Boston to do so.

The Parks include gardens, walkways, picnic areas and seven water features, including Rings Fountain.

Recently added, the Greenway Carousel features animals native to the Bay State, such as butterflies, a whale, a falcon and even a skunk, all drawn by elementary school children. The Carousel, which opened last August, has been a major attraction and a unique addition to the site.

“People weren’t really sure if they could come here, so we had to find ways to attract them here,” said Charlie McCabe, director of public programs with the Conservancy.

More improvements are coming soon. The Boston Redevelopment Authority approved a new study into permanently covering open access ramps in a board meeting June 19th. The Greenway Ramp Parcel Study will review the state guidelines for covering highway ramps. The possibilities of coverings range from horizontal to landscaping or architectural.

Also coming to the parks are different art pieces. The biggest piece soon being installed is a sculpture made of fishnets by Brookline artist Janet Echelman that will be suspended between buildings in Dewey Square.

The Greenway started out as an eyesore for the city, but with the improvements that have been and will be made, it has become an innovative hotspot.


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