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WTS-Boston Summer Tour of the Rose Kennedy Greenway

by Lindsey Barbee, Greenman-Pedersen, Inc.

The WTS-Boston Summer Tour took place on July 30th at the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, Boston’s unique series of linear parks and gardens inaugurated in 2008 as a result of the Central Artery Project, more commonly known as the “Big Dig.”  As the Big Dig replaced the elevated highway system with an underground tunnel, a plan to create parks and open spaces in place of the congested structures came to life.  Now, less than 10 years later, the Greenway Conservancy, the designated steward of the Greenway, operates and maintains its five individually unique parks and gardens as development in the City continues to increase along their edges.

Members of WTS-Boston were guided through the Greenway by two Directors of the Greenway Conservancy, and two guest speakers from WalkBoston, a dedicated advocate for the Greenway project and for pedestrian improvements throughout the City.  Wendy Landman, Executive Director of WalkBoston, and Don Kindsvatter, Director of the Urban Design Group at the Big Dig and also an active member of WalkBoston, started the tour at the Greenway Carousel by recognizing what the Greenway has achieved in improving walkability of Boston and encouraging a more vibrant community through enhanced pedestrian access.  Don pointed out the increased development that has occurred along the Greenway’s edges and the parcels of land once riddled by highway structures that are now open for pedestrian use and connectivity between city neighborhoods.  It was noted that one of the goals of the Greenway was to engage a variety of consultants throughout the planning and design process to achieve personality and individuality for each of the parks and gardens.  The diversity of the gardens and parks within it, and the jogging edges of the Greenway makes it most distinctive.

The tour through Wharf District Parks was guided by Steve Anderson, who joined the Conservancy in 2007 and now oversees all park operations and maintenance.  Steve noted that the complexity of the Big Dig created a challenging venue for many elements in the park, such as landscaping and water fountains, which typically require a substantial depth below the finished surface to maintain.  Due to the limited clearance between the top of the tunnel and the finished grades, common park elements can be challenging to achieve in areas.  Steve shared details of the complex construction behind Rings Fountain, the most popular fountain in the Greenway which is enjoyed in the summer months for visitors looking to cool off in the park.  The complexity of the fountain is in its infrastructure, which was specially designed to fit within the shallow clearance between the top of the underground tunnel at its highest point and the finished park elevation.  The fountain uses air to siphon water from its engineered vault, shooting choreographed rings of water through the air from a flat paved surface.  Tour attendees were given the opportunity to step into the underground vault that controls the fountain’s operation, which was at a much cooler temperature than the outside air on the humid day of the tour.

Laura Jasinski guided the tour through Fort Point Channel Park and beneath the recently installed Janet Echelman sculpture, soaring 600 feet through the air above the park.  Laura is the Director of Programs and Planning for the Greenway Conservancy, and is responsible for bringing arts, programs, and events to the Greenway.  Laura discussed the public art initiative and the Conservancy’s goal for art to be “temporary and contemporary.”  Laura discussed the details of the recently installed aerial sculpture, noting that it is comprised of structural rope fibers which are 15 times stronger than steel, and is attached to the structural steel of adjacent buildings at multiple locations.  The sculpture casts shadows onto the ground during the day and becomes illuminated at night.  Installation of the temporary sculpture was monumental, requiring seven (7) cranes and a highway detour to accomplish it within a single day.

Also at Fort Point Channel Park, Steve pointed out that the Greenway is one of only a handful of urban parks in the country which are sustained and maintained entirely organically.  The Greenway hires an exceptional horticulture staff which maintains the park organically, meaning no expenditures for toxic chemicals, lower water consumption, and healthier, more resilient plants with the ability to withstand a high demand of public use.  The Conservancy is proud that visitors can safely enjoy the lush lawns without the worry of pesticides.    
As the tour continued through Dewey Square Park, a farmer’s market was underway.  The small park has become a prevalent lunch spot due to its location between the Financial District and South Station and its many popular food vendor offerings.

The tour concluded at the office of the MBTA Green Line Extension Project, where attendees enjoyed the Air Conditioning and boxed lunches were served.  The Conservancy Directors and WalkBoston attendees happily answered additional questions regarding the Greenway’s public art initiative, organic maintenance strategies, and the impressive lineup of public events scheduled for the remainder of the summer.  Thanks to the Greenway Conservancy, WalkBoston, and the Programs Committee for a successful summer tour!






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