Myrtle the Turtle Finds New Home in Namesake Playground

Only a short distance from its original location, the Myrtle the Turtle sculpture will remain in its namesake Myrtle Street Playground.

To commemorate its 90th anniversary, the Beacon Hill Garden Club commissioned renowned West Newton sculptor Nancy Schön, who also designed the iconic “Make Way for Ducklings” sculpture on the Public Garden, as well as the “Tortoise and the Hare” sculpture in Copley Square, to create the 4-foot-long turtle sculpture as a gift to the city. It is modeled after a Kemp’s Ridley turtle -the most endangered turtle in the world – and named not only for the street where the playground is located, but also for Myrtle, the 560-pound sea turtle who has resided at the New England Aquarium since 1970.  The Garden Club worked with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to coordinate all aspects for the installation of the sculpture in the playground, which was unveiled during a public ceremony on May 13.

Over the summer, however, the city received several calls from neighborhood mothers who were concerned its bronze surface, when warmed by the sun, could “burn” their children’s skin. “People were concerned the bronze was too hot under the sun, and it was decided it was best to move [the sculpture] to a shadier area,” Garden Club board member Miguel Rosales said.

A consensus was reached among the city, the Garden Club and the Friends of the Myrtle Street Playground, and the plan received approval from the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission last month.

On Saturday, Aug. 31, the sculpture was moved from next to the sitting area in the center of the playground to its current location in a small, fenced-in planting bed near the entrance. The cost of the relocation and other improvements were sponsored by Schön and the Garden Club, with the endorsement and support of the Boston Parks Parks Department.  

“The Parks Department worked with the Beacon Hill Garden Club and the Friends of Myrtle Street Playground to find a location in the playground for Myrtle that is safe and still can be enjoyed by all park users and visitors,” said Ryan Woods, commissioner of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. “Its new home is safely guarded…and has a tree canopy cover, so [the sculpture] isn’t directly exposed to the sun.”

Woods describes the purpose as two-fold: “to keep children away from the turtle for their safety, and to protect the plantings [in the flower bed].”

Schön expressed her deep gratitude to Woods and Chris Cook, the city’s chief of environment, energy and open space, “for letting us keep this sculpture in the playground where it was intended to be in the first place.”

Schön said she was particularly drawn to the project by its “wordplay” (i.e. Myrtle the Turtle in the Myrtle Street Playground), which she described as “adorable.”

(Neighborhood leader John Corey originally proposed the idea last year, and all involved quickly endorsed it as a wonderful way to enhance the Myrtle Street playground, Rosales said.)

 “I think she is a wonderful sculpture. I’m very proud of her and proud that children who have seen and interacted with her, have really loved her,” she said.

As for Myrtle’s new home, Schön credits Rosales for handpicking the plantings and carefully selecting the placement in the planting bed he also designed.

“Miguel is a genius…and a brilliant artist,” Schön said. “He’s been a real pleasure work with, and I think the city should be very grateful for what’s he has done to bring this to a very happy conclusion.”

Kate Enroth, president of the Garden Club, said the group is pleased that Myrtle the Turtle has a new home on the playground.

“We are so grateful to Commissioner Ryan Woods and Chief Engineer Chris Cook for their guidance and patience in finding a solution that enhances the playground for the children and families that use it,” Enroth wrote. “We expect that Myrtle will settle in nicely and become a special part of the playground for many years to come.”

And despite the unforeseen quandary, Rosales is also satisfied with the outcome.

“We’re very pleased to have found consensus and a solution to the issue, and glad that Myrtle the Turtle could stay in the playground at its new location,” Rosales said.

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