What if — in place of the current three-story Museum of Science parking garage overlooking the Charles River — there loomed a giant Ferris wheel, on the order of the London Eye? What if — instead of a lane of Storrow Drive — a new leafy walkway abutted lagoons along the Esplanade? What if you could get to the Esplanade without having to hunt for a footbridge? What if you could bicycle along the paths of the Esplanade without hitting a pedestrian, or walk through it without getting smacked by a bike? What if you could find a place to sunbathe along the Charles that wasn't plastered with goose shit?
IMAGINE THERE'S NO GOOSE SHIT Could this be the Esplanade of the future?
These are some of the possiblities that will be discussed tonight (Thursday) at "Esplanade 2020 Unveiled" at Boston Public Library. The provisional plan — or "Vision," as it's being called by the Esplanade Association (TEA) — looks to be the first major overhaul of the city's green space since completion of the Rose Kennedy Greenway in 2007. It is the result of about two years of work by the private, nonprofit TEA to transform the Charles River park designed 100 years ago by Charles Eliot. To create "The Vision," the association drew on pro-bono input from landscape architects, urban designers, architects, horticulturalists, transportation experts, and graphic designers. The process also included multiple public meetings, as well as the close cooperation of the State Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), which controls the park. The plan begins by restoring the park's landscape (and dealing with such mundane problems as those geese) and extends to such bold recommendations as reclaiming sections that have been ceded to roadway construction (most notably Storrow Drive) and perhaps even creating that giant Ferris wheel.
The Phoenix sat down with Margo Newman, chair of TEA's board of directors; Jessica Pederson, TEA project manager; and architect John R. Shields, chairman of the Esplanade 2020 Vision committee to find out how the plan came together and what it holds in store for the city.
FIRST OF ALL, WHO IS TEA? WHAT'S THE SIZE OF YOUR MEMBERSHIP AND WHAT'S YOUR ROLE IN MANAGING THE PARK?
MARGO NEWMAN We're a private nonprofit. Our membership is somewhere between 500 and 700. We view ourselves as partnering with the DCR. The state owns the land, the DCR manages it on behalf of the citizens of the commonwealth.
The Esplanade Association was started about 10 years ago. The place was much more in a state of disrepair. There were swastikas on monuments, there were things falling in. So a lot of that basic work has been done. It looks much better now. But there's so much more to be done to raise the bar. It suffers a little bit, I think, in people's eyes, from being "good enough." You can run out there, you can have a concert, but there could be so much more.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING BESIDES COMING UP WITH YOUR VISION FOR THIS NEW ITERATION OF THE ESPLANADE?
JESSICA PEDERSON We do projects. We raise money to restore docks, we prune trees, we bring in 2000 volunteers a year. We do advocacy for the park.