Pokorny Recognized With Parks Champion Award and a Formal City Citation

At the group’s 54th annual meeting on Tuesday, April 9, at the UMass Club of Boston,  the Friends of the Public Garden awarded its inaugural Parks Champion Award to Margaret Pokorny, who also received a formal city citation from Mayor Michelle Wu then in recognition of her 30-plus years of service to Boston’s green spaces.

“Your seemingly endless capacity to advocate for the parks has inspired many others and made a significant and lasting impact on our community,” said Mayor Wu in presenting Pokorny with the formal citation from the City of Boston.

Margaret Pokorny, recipient of the Friends of the Public Garden’s inaugural
Parks Champion Award (center), is seen with Mayor Michelle Wu (at left) and Liz Vizza, president of the Friends group.

A dedicated Friends board member of the since 1991 who has also chaired the Commonwealth Avenue Mall Committee for many years, Pokorny moved to Boston in 1980. Her first brush with the Friends came two years later, as she recalled, when Pokorny’s future mentor and Friends board member, Stella Trafford, caught her watering a tree on Marlborough Street, where they lived two doors away from each other. Trafford soon recruited Pokorny in the arduous task of restoring the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, which was then devastated by Dutch Elm Disease and many years of neglect.

Pokorny has since devoted great time and effort to developing programs and raising funds for the restoration of the Mall. Her efforts have included  securing a Mass ReLeaf Grant to plant dozens of trees; creating the Adopt-a-Bench program to support bench restoration and care;  leading the 30-year drive to design and fund lighting of the Mall’s statues;  landscaping around several statues with the Garden Club of the Back Bay; writing the brochure ‘Commonwealth Avenue Mall, A Walking Tour,’ with her daughter, Kate ; leading the Hereford block restoration, which was severely damaged from use as a dog park; securing funding through community benefits grants and tree and bench sponsorships; and introducing the air spading technique to amend compacted soil.

“The stuff that Margaret did to make this stuff happen was legendary,” said Liz Vizza, president of the Friends group, who added that since the Parks Champion Award is intended to honor those who have gone above and beyond in as a model for supporting the parks and the Friends group on an annual basis, Pokorny would be a tough act to follow.

Vizza presented Pokorny with the intricately carved glass ‘Boston Bowl,’ which came adorned with the Lagoon Bridge in the Public Garden on one side and an etching of the Swan Boats and a small Duckling statue on the other side.

Colin Zick, vice chair of the Friends board, said Pokorny’s personal motto is ‘Born to Prune’ and added “You’re everywhere, where there’s a greenspace.”

Besides her work with the Friends and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Pokorny has also been “integral part” of many other parks and horticultural organizations, including Friends of Copley Square; Clarendon Street Playground Advisory Committee; Garden Club of the Back Bay; and Esplanade Association. She is also a founding member of the Charlesgate Alliance.

In receiving the accolades, Pokorny said, “It just shows what you can do if you’re trying to keep busy and get through the day. I’m so honored by this, but I much prefer the backroom to the podium.” She added that Trafford deserves just as much credit as she does for the transformation of the once-neglected Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

Pokorny praised Mayor Wu and Boston Parks Commission Ryan Woods for their unwavering commitment to the city’s park system. She also said the Friends many programs and wide-ranging advocacy work now function like a “well-oiled machine” under Vizza’s “brilliant leadership.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.