Downtown Parks a Source of Respite Amid Uncertainty

As so many other things remain uncertain and the Commonwealth enters its second week under a stay-at-home advisory, many residents have taken to the City’s many parks as respite.

The Sun spoke with Friends of the Public Garden’s Executive Director Liz Vizza about what changes the organization has had to make to its spring schedule, as well as how people can stay safe while still enjoying nature.

The Friends of the Public Garden’s Annual Meeting scheduled for April 2 has been rescheduled to be combined with the Members Reception on October 27. Also delayed are the openings of the Brewer Fountain Plaza and seasonal bathrooms on Boston Common “until further notice.”

Duckling Day, which was scheduled for May 10, has also been cancelled, as well as the Green & White Ball that was scheduled for May 1.

Though the COVID-19 outbreak has put many events and activities on hold, “nature knows it’s spring,” Vizza said. “Even though we are not doing things, nature is doing her things.”

She said that people visiting Boston parks should “use common sense” by staying SIX FEET distant from others and washing their hands before and after going outside. Those who feel sick should remain in their homes.

The Friends of the Public Garden advocates for 83 acres of Boston’s parkland consisting of the Boston Common, the Public Garden, and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

“Never in our 50 years have I felt like our parks are more important than they are today,” Vizza said. She added that she hopes everyone “plays by the rules” so these parks will remain open for use during the outbreak.

Mayor Walsh announced that he had to tie up basketball hoops to discourage sports from being played, as they do not coincide with social distancing guidelines. The Mayor recognizes the importance of open space and allowing Bostonians to take some time outside, but guidelines must be followed so everyone stays safe.

Vizza said that between the Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall, there are “a lot of nooks and crannies” where people can safely distance themselves from others while still finding the peace that nature can offer during this stressful time.

Vizza also said that the Boston Common Master Plan is moving forward, as the team has received feedback from nearly 8,000 residents at different public events over the past few months. She said they have garnered enough public input to incorporate people’s interests into goals, and match them with the objectives of the project team.

She did say that another public meeting scheduled for May will be moved, but the team is still meeting virtually to discuss the Master Plan and how to proceed.

The team learned that 55,000 residents consider these downtown parks their backyard, and though they will be more user-friendly, inviting, and active in the future, for now, they are a vital source of tranquility for residents.

“We love our fun events, but in the absence of that, the parks are doing what they do and we get to go out there and love it,” Vizza said. “In this moment of patience, the parks are telling us what we need to get healed and calm.”

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