This Thursday marks our official 50th Anniversary, a day which this time last year we had envisioned celebrating a bit differently than we are able to right now. While it may not be safe to gather in large numbers at Brewer Fountain or at Parkman Bandstand on the Common – where we planned to have our birthday bash – we can take solace in the fact that our downtown parks continue to receive much use, love, and care from those near and far. When I think of where our parks were when we began in 1970, where we are today, and where we’re going, I’m grateful for the dedication of our mighty group of Friends over these many decades.
Over the past several months I’ve been inspired by the impact our parks have had on all those who have sought them for rest and renewal in this difficult time. I’ve been heartened to see small intimate moments continue to happen in daily life, despite the distance that has been forced upon us. I’ve been encouraged by heartfelt notes from Members, often living in other states, sharing their stories and offering their financial support towards major restoration initiatives, capital projects, and plain-old parks care. I’ve been proud of the role the parks play as the center of Boston’s civic life, common ground to raise voices for the civil rights issues of our time. I’ve been grateful for the moments I use the parks myself, to set aside all the challenges we need to grapple with as their caretakers and find a sunny lawn to read a book. Parks make cities, and they are vital to the physical, social, and mental health of us all.
One thing I’ve come to appreciate in my role leading the Friends is the importance of both of those perspectives. Healthy patches of grass for a relaxing afternoon in the park make the aerial shot so stunning. And that healthy grass is possible only if it gets the amount of sunshine it needs to grow, which makes our efforts to manage shadows from Downtown development essential for a livable city.
Our parks are parks for All. Our decisions must be intentional to reflect those values. Working with the City, we’ve been purposeful in our outreach surrounding the Boston Common Master Plan, talking to not only the park’s direct neighbors but the residents of many Boston neighborhoods and getting insights from far beyond. More than simply restoring a famous Memorial to the 54th Regiment, our Partnership to Renew the Shaw 54th has invited hundreds to join community conversations about the promise and continuing challenge of honoring their march to freedom.
Now, the Friends is being purposeful in our own organizational representation of inclusive values and examining how we can live more fully into those values. We are committed to building a more diverse and inclusive organization in our leadership, staff, and partners. We are committed to listening, learning, and then acting to do all we can to make our parks more welcoming to a diverse community.
As we continue forward in this next 50 years of stewardship and beyond, we thank all you who have supported us in the care, renewal and advocacy for our three parks and commit to bringing in the voices of all of Boston, who own these irreplaceable greenspaces and enrich them by their presence.
We can’t wait to gather and celebrate in person again. Until then, Thank You for your friendship!