With summer right around the corner, the Esplanade Association is gearing up for another strong year along the historic park in downtown Boston.
At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Esplanade Association on Monday, April 9 at the Hampshire House in Beacon Hill, members caught up on the accomplishments of the organizations work from last year and got a sneak preview for what is to come this upcoming season.
“The state can’t do it alone, we rely on your support,” said Leo Roy, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR). “The staff at DCR are truly dedicated to the park and care about being stewards as much as you care about the Esplanade. I want to thank you for caring for a place we all share in Massachusetts.”
The Esplanade Association is a 100 percent privately-funded non-profit organization that works to revitalize and enhance the Charles River Esplanade, sustain the natural green space, and build community by providing educational, cultural, and recreational programs to everyone.
Working in collaboration with the DCR, the organization is dedicated to improving the experiences of the millions of visitors who enjoy Boston’s riverside park.
Last year was one of the Esplanade Association’s strongest financially as they achieved a record level of support with close to $1.8 million.
“I’ve been here for four months and it has been such a thrill to work alongside the parks and staff,” said Michael Nichols, executive director of the Esplanade Association. “There’s always been a feeling of a special place for me. For 10 years I’ve lived in Boston in both the Back Bay and the Fenway so its always been in my backyard – it feels like home. Now, I get to help take care of it with this tremendous staff.”
This year the Esplanade Association invested a record amount in the park, including restoring a historic Lotta Fountain, enriching 12 garden beds, caring for 1,700 park trees, and commissioning the first-ever public art mural, “Patterned Behavior.”
Throughout 2017, the park had nearly 5,000 hours of donated volunteer labor that revitalized and enhanced the park by removing invasive species and repainting park benches.
Through one of the only fully organic public horticulture program in the country, the Esplanade Association sustained the natural green space and saw the return of four species of native plants.
Maintenance included pruning 48 percent of the trees and planting 1,935 perennials, shrubs and trees.
Last year, 4,757 people participated in the free Yoga, Zumba, and Bootcamp classes.
There are a lot of exciting plans for this year as well. The Esplanade Association received a grant from the Boston Foundation to provide new arts programming in the park in 2018.
There will be several outdoor performances including “Jazz Along the Charles.” The event will feature 25 jazz ensembles in walkable locations along the Esplanade on a single fall evening in September.
“We’ll have close to 20 different bands in different locations playing Boston’s favorite tunes,” said Nichols. “It will be a cultural experience only the Esplanade can provide.”
Also coming this year is new signage. Welcome signs will be installed at six park entrances to provide park visitors with a new map and information about points of interest in the park to help improve the visitors experience.
The first phase will roll out early this year with way finding and maps. A second phase will have more educational and interpretation signage behind the parks history.
“It’s an historic park,” said Nichols. “When people are in the park we want to make sure they understand the history, especially in a year where the Longfellow Bridge is set to re-open alongside the Frances Appleton pedestrian bridge – we want to continue to tell that story to all the visitors to the park.”
To make it safer traveling along the park, the Esplanade Association will hire a consultant to develop an Esplanade Pathway Improvement and Safety Plan.
This plan will provide design concepts and schematic plans for revisions to the Esplanade pathways that will allow their use in a safe and efficient manner by pedestrians of all abilities, parents with children, runners, those bicycling for recreation or as commuters.
“Everyone wants to use the park,” said Nichols. “The pathways are busy with people commuting or walking and we are looking at ways to separate users in the path. That way we won’t have high speed bikers next to those using strollers. We want it to be a park for everyone.”