To renew, care, and advocate for the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall.


We envision the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall to be welcoming and accessible to all. We will care for these parks with vigilance and innovation, so that they offer the respite of the natural world and reflect the storied history of this land, our city, and our country.


The Friends is one of the oldest public-private partnerships in the nation. By the late 1960s many people were deeply concerned about the conditions of Boston’s parks, perhaps the worst point in their history. A group gathered in the spring of 1970 to address the deplorable conditions of the Public Garden, which suffered from insufficient funding from the City, low expectations by residents, neglect, and vandalism. The Beacon Hill Civic Association and the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay decided that a separate organization was needed to protect and restore the Garden. Henry Lee was chosen as the volunteer president and served with distinction for forty-one years. He remains a guiding force in the organization.


The Friends focused initially on the Garden, but attention soon turned to the Boston Common and Commonwealth Avenue Mall. They also suffered from crime, vandalism, and misuse and were ravaged by the effects of Dutch elm disease, killing 40 trees a year. The battle against the Park Plaza Urban Renewal Plan, however, posed the biggest threat to the parks, and consumed the Friends throughout the 1970s. The plan for six million square feet of development in five to six towers 450’-650’ high along Boylston Street would have created untenable levels of shade and wind on the Garden and Common. The successful fight against the plan gave the Friends broad visibility and brought widespread attention to the condition of the parks.


Ever since that victory, the Friends has expanded its capacity to care for the parks with funding and expertise, always working closely with the Parks Department. At the same time, when necessary, we have spoken out against misuse or overuse, and have continued to be a strong voice in protecting these parks against encroachment, particularly from damaging shadows caused by new development.


In 2020, a new Strategic Plan was laid out, with a core set of goals and values created to anchor our mission.


  • We will work to build a diverse and inclusive organization
  • We will increase public engagement with the Parks, our organization, our work, and the impact it has on the Parks
  • We will increase our organizational capacity to support the execution of our operational goals
  • We will use innovation and the latest science to apply best practices care for all three Parks
  • We will undertake and accomplish high profile projects, excellently


  • High quality parks for all
  • Excellence in standards of care
  • Sustainable use of greenspace
  • Investment in our partnerships
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


The Friends plays a vital role in the stewardship of these parks. We work closely with the Boston Parks and Recreation Department to provide and fund the best possible professional care of their irreplaceable collection of mature trees, sculpture, and fountains. We also act as advocates, speaking out for the protection of these parks against misuse and encroachment and educating the public about park issues.

Our 3,000 members come from more than 131 communities across Massachusetts and 31 states.


  1. Renovating Brewer Plaza and parkland in the southeast corner of the Boston Common, the largest park renovation effort ever undertaken by the Friends, or entrusted to a nonprofit park partner by the city
  2. Planting over 600 specimen trees
  3. Restoring and maintaining fountains and sculpture
  4. In partnership with the City, the National Park Service, and the Museum of African American History, restoring the Shaw 54th Memorial and becoming a national model for using the preservation project as a catalyst for dialogue on race and social justice
  5. Creating What Do We Have in Common?, a participatory temporary art installation that engaged the public about ownership and what it means to share and care for common ground
  6. Maintaining the rose gardens in the Public Garden through the volunteer Rose Brigade and the border beds through the volunteer Border Brigade
  7. Partnering with the City to develop the Boston Common Master Plan, identifying over $100M in enhancements for the park
  8. Sponsoring public programs including Duckling Day, Making History on the Common, and supporting skating at the Frog Pond
  9. Helping to establish the Park Rangers program, which provides interpretative guides and guardians for the parks, saving the program from elimination in 2003 with major funding
  10. Providing seasonal bathrooms on the Common that serve over 140,000 people and display murals by diverse artists

“From their very beginnings, it has been public participation that has saved these parks, and it is public concern that alone will assure in years to come their care and keeping.”

Henry Lee, President Emeritus of the Friends