After two years and more than 100 meetings with citizens, elected officials and other stakeholders, The Esplanade Association (TEA) unveiled “Esplanade 2020” Thursday, outlining the non-profit’s grand vision for restoring and enhancing the state park over the next 100 years.
“This is a vision, a group of ideas, not a proposal or specific plan,” TEA Executive Director Sylvia Salas said to the more than 200 in attendance at the Boston Public Library’s Rabb Auditorium. “It’s what the Esplanade could be.”
Working closely with the Department of Conservation (DCR) and Recreation, TEA detailed its “overarching strategy and 10 big ideas” for improving the Charles River Esplanade, including returning Storrow Drive to a parkway, redeveloping the Charles Dam and razing the Bowker Overpass to make way for a restored Charlesgate Park, among other proposed measures.
DCR Commissioner Edward Lambert Jr. described the 3 miles that make up the Esplanade as the “crown in the jewel” of the more than 500,000 acres of state parkland that the agency has jurisdiction over.
“It really has the opportunity to be the lifeblood of Boston,” Lambert said. “We need to move collaboratively with each other to move the ball.”
One ambitious plan to generate new revenue would replace the parking garage adjacent to the Museum of Science with a Ferris wheel, modeled after the 443-foot London Eye.
“I do admire the Eye of London, but in terms of that Ferris wheel, I’m not that much of a revolutionary,” quipped Beacon Hill resident John Sears.
When asked what measures for improving the park could be implemented in the near future, John Shields, project chair of Esplanade 2020, pointed to restoring the Hatch Shell and reopening the long-shuttered Lee Memorial Pool, as well as making improvements to signage and “wayfinding.”
“Wayfinding is a low-cost way to establish a sense of place,” Shields said.
With the Esplanade 2020 study now completed, Shields said now is the time to make the vision a reality.
“We’ve seen all the ideas presented here tonight done in other places,” Shields said. “We’re ready to move to the next level. It’s about making it the best park in the world. We need to work collaboratively on this vision over the next decade, and we’ll all come out winners.”