The Emerald Necklace describes a network of parks in Boston designed by the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1870s. The design resolved the combined pressures of flooding and sewerage in the area. It was a design that responded to the ‘conditions of the locality in adaptation to the needs of a denser community’.
Olmsted adopted a naturalistic approach that might ‘suggest a modest poetic sentiment more grateful to town weary minds than an elaborate and elegant garden-like work would have yielded’.
Back Bay Fens is one part of the Emerald Necklace. Within the Fens are the largest continuously operating Victory Gardens in the US. Each of the more than 500 plots covering 7 acres is unique – from the eccentric to the tidy. The Gardens are more ornamental than productive. In full rose bloom on nearly every fence on this mid June day, the Gardens were alive with bees.
The waterway that runs through the Fens is called the Muddy River, and muddy and degraded it looked. Significant restoration work appears to be underway.
The Emerald Necklace Conservancy was set up 15 years ago to maintain, restore and protect the parks of the Emerald Necklace. The Conservancy is a not for profit organisation that seeks public and private funding to support projects and programs in the Park.
Within that structure, the Olmsted Tree Society has been set up to prepare an inventory of all the trees in the 1,100 acre Park and a management plan for the health and renewal of the tree population. Sponsorship is sought for trees at a range of values. Interesting to wonder whether Melburnians would be willing to invest in the health of trees in parks.
Heritage Tree Care and Succession Plan – $25,000 (15 years)
Young Tree Care – $5,000 (5 years)
Plant a New Tree – care, watering, maintenance $2,500 (2 years)
Maintain Trees – pruning $500 (1 year)
With few opportunities remaining in dense urban centres for the creation of large parks, the Emerald Necklace idea offers inspiration and possibilities. Nodes of skilfully designed green spaces could be connected to parks via shady, walkable streets. These networks would combine environmental benefits such as stormwater capture and re-use with the democratic ideal Olmsted also valued so much – for parks to be meeting grounds for people of different backgrounds and economic means.