Before Alison McRae even applied for her current position as capital projects manager of the Esplanade Association, she was already smitten with the park.
“I had already had fallen in love with the park before I even saw the job description,” said McRae, who assumed the role last July. “The Esplanade Association is an incredible place to work. This really is my dream job.”
After relocating to Boston from Washington, D.C., in May of 2019, McRae was working remotely for National Public Radio and spent her free time exploring a city that was new to her, which inevitably drew her to the Charles River Esplanade.
McRae had come to work at NPR in its D.C. headquarters as the ’16 Presidential election was underway, and she would go on to help develop the NPR website and the infrastructure behind its mobile apps with a team of co-workers during her time there.
This position proved to be a rewarding and challenging opportunity for her, but she felt it was also missing the connection to greenspace that her previous job offered her, and which she missed so much.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia, McRae landed her first post-college job with KABOOM!, a self-described “national nonprofit that works to end playspace inequity,” and in her role there as assistant project manager, she worked with communities across the country to build playgrounds specific to their needs.
“It was very fast-paced, and I was working on several projects at once, which really helped me hone my skills as a project manager in the year and a half I was there,” she said.
But the aspect of the job she liked the most was “advocating for outdoor spaces and ensuring community access to them,” as McRae describes it.
“It was a big transition going from playgrounds to digital software projects,” she said, “but I knew the whole time that I wanted to get back into parks.”
Upon settling into her current role at EA, McRae found herself inundated with reading material, including numerous reports and studies on subjects such as Pathway Safety and Tree Management, which she made her way through to get up to speed on the organization’s many projects.
“There really was a wealth of information to read through to prepare to implement theses projects,” she said.
One project McRae now finds herself at the helm of is the rehabilitation of the Stoneman Playground on the Esplanade.
“It was built in 2001, and is one of the first projects that the Esplanade Association built in partnership with the [Department of Conservation and Recreation],” she said. “Being almost 20 years old, it needed some TLC, so the project was to make it more accessible to children of all ages and abilities.”
The updated playground, which will feature musical instruments bike racks, a ramp and new granite pavers, is expected to open to the public later this summer.
“The Stoneman Playground project is in execution right now,” McRae said, “and I’m, really excited to see it come to fruition and be implemented.”
Michael Nichols, EA executive director, said McRae has excelled in her role with the nonprofit.
“She has been a fantastic contribution to the team since she joined,” Nichols said. “The result of her work has become quickly apparent to folks, and she is currently leading the Stoneman Playground renovation effort, which will invest $250,000 in upgrades to the popular playground.”
As for McRae, she couldn’t be more enthusiastic about EA and her role within the organization.
“I’m really excited about the work and am passionate to be here,” she said. “It has really helped me feel like a part of the community to work in a park that’s so visible and so important in Boston’s history.”