The Emerald Necklace Conservancy (ENC) held its first ever “Emerald Evening In,” a virtual fundraiser to support the organization’s work in Boston’s Emerald Necklace parks.
Hosted by Jared Bowen of GBH news, the event brought in more than 100 people from across the country as well as right here in Boston, who enjoyed wine and cheese delivered to their home by The Urban Grape and Curds & Co. The event raised more than $75,000 for the ENC.
Mayor Marty Walsh was honored with the 2020 Olmsted Award of Excellence for his continued leadership and investment in Boston Parks. The ENC reported that “historical capital investments” have been made by Walsh, including over $60 million for just the Emerald Necklace, and include projects like the Muddy River Restoration project and the Franklin Park Action Plan.
ENC President Karen Mauney-Brodek talked about the Emerald Necklace and its importance to the city. “The Emerald Necklace is the nation’s first example of green infrastructure,” she said. She said that side from providing homes for many “thousands” of species of plants and animals, it is a “shared space” for humans too, and “a place to practice our democratic ideals.”
Mauney-Brodek explained that during the COVID-19 pandemic, when so many things remain uncertain and places like schools and museums are either closed or “less available to us,” she said that “our parks have been in a unique position to service us; welcome us…”
The Emerald Necklace was a 20 year project created by Frederick Law Olmsted to “connect Bostonians to nature in the middle of their city,” and was created to help remedy a public health problem in the city, as access to green space has many health benefits, she said.
“Green space matters to us as people, citizens, and as individuals,” Mauney-Brodek said.
Peter James, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, spoke briefly about the health benefits of green space. He said that long-term studies have shown that living in areas where green space is easily accessible lead to “lower risk of anxiety, depression, improved sleep, better immune function, lower mortality rates,” and more.
In some recent research, James said that in areas where there is more green space, there were less incidents of COVID-19. The preprint for his new article can be found here: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.08.26.20181644v1.
Host Jared Bowen asked some trivia questions about the Emerald Necklace, and attendees learned that 423,000 people can fit inside the Emerald Necklace parks at the same time while still social distancing, which is half the population of Boston, Bowen said. The Emerald Necklace parks take up 1100 acres of land altogether.
Mayor Walsh was then presented with the 2020 Olmsted Award of Excellence, which is awarded every two years to someone who “demonstrates an unwavering commitment and service to carrying out Frederick Law Olmsted‘s vision for urban parks through exemplary and enduring work on behalf of our local parks and the Emerald Necklace in particular,” according to the ENC website.
Walsh said that he believes it’s important to continue investing in green space in the City to ensure that people have a safe place for exercising, playing, and gathering safely. He thanked the Parks Department for their contributions to the parks.
“They, quite honestly, are the folks who do amazing work,” Walsh said.
He also said he was appreciative of the ENC and their work in preserving Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision for the parks, as he “became a national leader here in accessibility and climate resiliency.”
Walsh said that he is “honored to receive an award named after him.”
Attendees also heard from members of community organizations such as the Charlesgate Alliance, the Fenway Civic Association, the Arborway Coalition, the Friends of Jamaica Pond, and the Franklin Park Coalition.
Pam Beale of the Charlesgate Alliance thanked Mayor Walsh for his investments in the park that allowed the Charlesgate redesigjn project to secure full funding. The project will restore water quality and tree canopy, as well as make numerous improvements to the park so it can be accessed and enjoyed safely by all.
Marie Fukuda of the Fenway Civic Association reported that the Muddy River Restoration Project is now in its final phase, which will improve flood management for the Muddy River. Fukuda said that it is “more critical for our city to be prepared than ever before.”
Sarah Freeman of the Arborway Coalition said that there has been an “unprecedented” number of visitors to the Emerald Necklace this year, and that the Arborway Coalition is grateful for the support of the ENC in ensuring that the tree canopy is cared for.
Kent Jackson, the Director of Education for the ENC, concluded the program with words about some of the ways funds raised for the ENC will be put into use, including ENC’s youth education programs.
“These programs, made possible by your support tonight at year-round, connect Boston’s youth to nature and its many benefits,” he said. He said it is “important to restore, maintain, and protect” green space for today’s youth as well as future generations.”
He thanked the ENC’s public partners as well as Mayor Walsh and his team for their support.
The night was rounded out by a musical performance by Highland Street, who played Serenade a Tre by Franz Xaver Süssmayr. The performance included Greta Myatieva on violin, Mira Williams on viola, and Roy Femenella on French horn.
To learn more about the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and its work and program offerings, visit emeraldnecklace.org.