On the heels of its annual meeting on Monday, April 4, which returned as an in-person event at the Westin Copley Place Hotel (and was also held via Zoom), the Esplanade Association (EA) also released its 2021 Annual Report this week.
With the nonprofit celebrating 20 years of its continuing partnership with the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) in ’21, EA marked this milestone with several special events highlighted in its Annual Report, including notably, “Hatched: Breaking through the Silence” – an original 15-minute visual performance led by Boston-based creative Maria Finkelmeier of MF Dynamics, which was specifically designed for the then-80-year-old DCR Hatch Shell. The free program ran from Jan. 22 through Feb. 22 of last year, with multiple showings each night.
May 7 was a particularly memorable day on the Esplanade, when former New England Patriot Ron Gronkowski visited the park to announce his $1.2 million gift on behalf of the Gronk Nation Youth Foundation to EA for a complete renovation of the Charlesbank Playground, which will be renamed “Gronk Playground.”
September also brought more big news for the park, with EA announcing its $20 million commitment to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to fund Charlesbank Landing, a two-acre riverfront park proposed for the now-vacant lot where the Lee Pool complex once stood.
And on Dec. 18, the lights at the top of the Prudential Center again turned green to honor EA when the group was selected for the second year in a row by the Prudential Center and Boston Properties for inclusion in the Prudential Center’s annual 31 Nights of Light, which celebrates a different nonprofit each night of December with its rotating light display.
EA renewed its commitments to Climate Action, as well as to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in 2021, while last year also marked the third year for Esplanade Arbor Fund (L.E.A.F.) initiative, which was established in fall 2019 to help build a stronger and healthier tree canopy for the Esplanade.
2021 also marked the return of several popular programs to the park sponsored by EA, along with the introduction of several new ones, including Frost Fit Winter Series and Summer Fit Winter Fitness Series; new music and movement sessions with the Boston Music Project called “Saturdays at Stoneman”; and the first-ever Esplanade Community Day on Sunday, Aug. 29, which kicked off with the Esplanade 5K Presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and also featured a music and movement session led by the Boston Music Project, and a special GroundBeat Music Concert curated by BAMS Fest.
Volunteers also continued to make a huge difference in the upkeep of the Esplanade in 2021, putting in a total of 1,400 hours in the park over the course of the year. Between March and November of last year, 700 volunteers joined EA to remove 800 bags of trash, and to paint 72 park benches.
EA was also again selected last year by the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) as an official charity team of the 125th Boston Marathon, and on Oct. 11, Team Esplanade, which comprised 11 runners, went on to participate in the footrace to raise more than $100,000 for the Esplanade.
The Esplanade was the venue for several festive events sponsored by EA last year, including Moondance En Plein Air on Sept. 18 – an open-air Moondance Gala at the DCR Hatch Shell, which drew more than 300 guests and went on to raise more than $1 million for the park.
Nearly 300 guests were also on hand for the 10th annual Summer Dock Party on Thursday, July 22, ar the Community Boating Docks.
Meanwhile. EA made $275,000 in improvements to the Miriam & Sidney Stoneman Playground last year and also received a $50,000 DCR Partnership Matching Grant, which will allow EA and DCR to design and install “more music play, educational panels, and the first spinning equipment” in the playground.
EA has also “reengaged” artist Mitch Reyerson to create a new wood piece for the playground in 2022 to replace his original wood sculpture, which was removed in the winter of 2021 due to decay. Also in 2022, EA will partner with DCR and the Boston landscape design firm, Stoss and the Boston transportation planning firm, Nelson/Nygaard, to develop strategic proposals for Phase 1 deign modifications to improve pathway safety at key intersections of the Esplanade.