By Beth Treffeisen
The Esplanade Association announced late last week the selection of Michael J. Nichols, of Boston, as the organization’s new Executive Director. Nichols, an experienced public servant, attorney, and non-profit professional, will begin at the Esplanade Association on Nov. 29.
“I’m exited to get started on the day to day work on improving the work the Esplanade Association has been doing,” said Nichols. “The Esplanade certainly has some of the best bones than any other park in Boston because of the work the Esplanade Association has done before me, but I think there is more that we can do.”
Nichols hopes to bring more public art, create more revenue streaming events, and make the park even better for the day-to-day use of visitors.
For the past three years, Nichols has been at the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, with the last two and half years serving as Chief of Staff. At the Greenway, Nichols was responsible for the Conservancy’s community and government affairs, external communications, and advancing strategic priorities.
Under his leadership, the Conservancy negotiated a landmark public-private funding agreement, opened Boston’s first fully open-air beer garden, launched the organization’s signature young professional event, significantly grew earned revenue with innovative activities, and initiated numerous partnerships with other leading Boston institutions for in-park events.
Nichols hopes to take these types of events that he created at the Conservancy and tailor them to the Esplanade.
“Michael has proven strategic leadership experience in communicating the value of a public/private partnership to care for – and activate – an urban public park,” said Alexi Conine, Chair of the Esplanade Association Board.
“We were impressed with his passion, broad skillset, and record of success in mission-focused government and non-profit work. He will help fulfill the Association’s goal of making the Esplanade an innovative, sustainably maintained recreational destination and cultural asset. We’re thrilled to have Michael join us.”
The Esplanade Association is a privately funded friends group dedicated to the stewardship and improvement of the Charles River Esplanade in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Since the organization’s founding in 2001, the Esplanade Association has raised over $14 million which has funded new park amenities, restored park assets and infrastructure, improved horticultural offerings, initiated new programs and public art, managed a robust volunteer program, and made key improvements to the three-mile stretch of waterfront park.
In addition to his work at the Greenway, Nichols is the current president of the Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association. Most recently, Nichols has worked alongside other active community residents to bring needed upgrades to Audubon Circle, at the intersection of Beacon St. and Park Drive.
The $7 million re-design project will feature new traffic calming, better pedestrian intersections, bike lanes, and new landscaping.
“I’m not sure yet if I will be able to stay,” said Nichols. “It depends on how much free time I will have. I will continue to live in Audubon Circle and be a part of the neighborhood but time will tell.”
Nichols received both his bachelor’s degree and law degree from the University of Connecticut. He began his career in public service as Chief of Staff and Legal Counsel to two state representatives in the Massachusetts Legislature, specializing in public finance and community development. He later served as Research and Policy Director to the full 13-member Boston City Council.
“The Esplanade Association plays a key role in supporting the ongoing maintenance, care, and improvement of the Charles River Esplanade,” offered State Representative Jay Livingstone. “I look forward to working with Nichols to ensure the continued strength of this important public/private partnership.”