Margaret Pokorny

Born to Prune!

Margaret Pokorny has been taking care of the trees on Commonwealth Avenue Mall since the 70s. “My neighbor Stella Trafford saw me out watering a street tree one day. I never escaped her after that,” remembers Margaret. The Commonwealth Avenue Mall Committee was instituted in 1971 by the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) and the Friends of the Public Garden with Stella Trafford as Chair, when almost half the trees on the Mall were dead or dying from Dutch elm disease. Margaret and Stella worked closely together to replant the Mall. Stella encouraged Margaret to write her thesis about the Mall for the Radcliffe Seminars in 1992. Working on the Mall Margaret says, “I really enjoyed the whole tree care and planting things we did.  I liked working right along with the crews doing the pruning and planting.”

Another remarkable achievement was her participation on the 13-year-long committee that eventually put the Women’s Memorial on the Mall. She has been involved with the Friends, on the Board and on committees, officially starting in the spring of 1991. Currently, she is Chair of the Commonwealth Avenue Mall Committee and serves on the Governance, Horticulture and Parks Committees.

“It has been a real pleasure for me to deal with residents and donors who have planted over 250 memorial trees and placed 67 memorial benches on the Mall. I always find it interesting how emotional people get about the parks.  We have had people write poems about their favorite elm tree on the Mall, and we have had groups of Argentinians in tears looking at the sculpture of Domingo Sarmiento.”

Always a strong advocate for the Mall, Margaret is passionate about protecting it. The Mall is well loved but heavily used by residents, visitors, and major events like the Marathon and other races. She wants people to understand it was never designed for this level of use, and hopes everyone is starting to realize how fragile these spaces are. She has been working for many years to raise awareness about the impact of gas leaks on the Mall. Many trees have already been lost to gas leaks and many others are in decline.

Margaret is looking forward to new projects in the works: fixing up the underpass when the Massachusetts Avenue bridge is finished, sprucing up Kenmore Mall, the last block of the Landmarked area, and working with the newly-formed Charlesgate Alliance to restore the connection that the Bowker severed. And last but not least, her 30-year quest to get the statues on the Mall lit!