By Beth Treffeisen
Last week, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy invited members and guests to the annual meeting to bring updates on important improvements to the parks and say a thank you to its many volunteers.
Held on this past Wednesday, March 22 at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, the Conservancy was glad to host a special “Speak Out Lecture by John Francis, PhD” that continued to spark inspiration amongst the members.
After a banjo performance, Francis, talked about his experience in the early 1970’s when he decided to give up motorized transportation and began walking. He walked across the country and took a vow of silence along the way.
Francis details his experience in his memoir, Planetwalker, 22 Years of walking, 17 Years of Silence, which showcases his journey and how it brought him closer to the rhythms of the earth.
He later went on to found Planetwalk, a non-profit environmental awareness organization and earned college and graduate degrees and a PhD in land resources.
“I learned that the environment is not just about the trees, it’s about the trees but also the environment is about how we treat each other,” said Francis. “It becomes even more powerful in how we treat each other well that will manifest in the world and make it better.”
Francis during his speech said that the work the Emerald Necklace Conservancy is really important.
“In order to have healthy people you need healthy parks,” said Francis. “They’re sanctuaries in an urban environment.”
This past year alone, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy planted 174 trees, used 1,260 coir logs for stabilization at Riverway Park, and improved over 14,000 square feet of soil.
In addition volunteers filled 1,094 bags of invasive plants and trash from the parks. There were 81 students who participated in the canopy classroom for hands-on learning in Franklin Park and the Green Team members spend 1,712 hours restoring and improving the parks.
Major projects have included the completion of the Muddy River Restoration Phase 1, which reverted an old Sears parking lot back into a naturally free-flowing river and park lands.
“The foot print provided by Fredrick Olmsted is unique and wonderful,” said Karen Mauney-Brodek the President of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy. “The Muddy River is the DNA of the Conservancy.”
The new parkland will make its debut in spring 2017 as the Justine Mee Liff Park, named in honor of the late Boston Parks Commissioner who championed the renewal of Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace.
Another major improvement has been the start of taking down the Casey Overpass near the Forest Hills Station in Jamaica Plain. It will be replaced with a simplified at-grade reconstructed roadway network.
This project will work to restore and re-link the Emerald Necklace chain and make the area both safer and easier to use. The project is expected to be completed in Spring 2018.
“If we build it – people will use it,” said Mauney-Brodek. “These are historic changes and I would call these game changers. With these opportunities we can make it a real necklace again and not just broken pieces.”