SO YOU ARE ESSENTIALLY THE BIGGEST STAKEHOLDER, OTHER THAN THE STATE, IN THE PROCESS.
NEWMAN We're a friends' group. We represent the community and all the state groups. There are other stakeholders, clearly. Community Boating is there, the Union Boat Club, all residents are stakeholders in that sense. But we are the major friends' group. We are the only friends' group to focus just on the Esplanade. Others focus on the Charles River basin or the river itself.
CAN YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT THE RECLAMATION OF PARKLAND THAT OVER THE YEARS HAS BEEN CONVERTED TO ROADWAY — SUCH AS STORROW DRIVE AND THE BOWKER OVERPASS IN KENMORE SQUARE?
JOHN SHIELDS We come at this with the point of view that we want to create the best park in the world, and Storrow Drive and the Bowker Overpass don't help that. The neighbors, for the most part, people in the neighborhood, agree with us. There's a very strong movement in the Kenmore area to do something about the Bowker Overpass. And what our traffic people have done is they've looked at Storrow Drive and they said, "This is really a very poorly engineered roadway." . . . All of the exit ramps and entry ramps are on the wrong side, literally. You exit off the high-speed lane. It's frankly just 1951 highway engineering with no regard for much of anything.
PEDERSON I think what's also important is that we want the best park for the people of Boston. And when we went out into the community and asked them what they wanted, I think a lot of people agreed with us that Storrow Drive would be better as a parkway. So it's not just coming from us.
COULD YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE PROCESS THAT YOU WENT THROUGH? YOU'VE SAID YOU WENT OUT AND TALKED TO A BUNCH OF PEOPLE. HOW DID YOU FIGURE OUT WHO YOU WERE GOING TO TALK TO? HOW LONG DID THAT TAKE?
RANGE OF VISION TEA hopes its improvements would open the park to more year-round uses.
SHIELDS We started off just internally, within the Esplanade Association. We had several discussions. Then when we decided we were going to take it to a vision, and we decided that we needed a full public process. So we had three meetings, all at the Boston Public Library. They had a good attendance. It was probably the usual suspects in attendance. But we had a first session which just drew out the issues, and then we had a second session which was actually a workshop session where we were really asking people for ideas, and got hundreds of ideas on what to do.
AND WHEN YOU SAID THE "USUAL SUSPECTS," TELL US SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE INVOLVED IN THAT.
SHIELDS I think it was mostly Beacon Hill and Back Bay residents, and interested parties. The various institutions that use the Esplanade Hill House were there, Union Boat Club, Boston University was there, DCR, of course.
WERE THE FIRST MEETINGS MOSTLY GATHERING INFORMATION, AS FAR AS WHAT PEOPLE WANTED TO SEE? OR DID YOU HAVE SOMETHING YOU WERE PRESENTING AT THAT POINT?