2006 Conservators Annual Dinner Meeting

Smith, Wolff Tell Conservators: Greenway Healing City

Lynn Wolff

Twenty five years is a long time to pursue a vision. The vision for the Rose Kennedy Greenway has always been to replace the hard steel and asphalt of the Central Artery with open space. The vision is nearly achieved. Architect Peter Smith of Newton, Principal of Global Urban Solutions, and Lynn Wolff, President of Copley Wolff Design Group, both provided design services for the Greenway. They spoke at the Newton Conservators’ annual dinner on May 31. They guided the audience on a computer-animated tour of the new park. Within a year, the speakers told the Conservators, what are still hard surfaces will become a sculptured urban landscape. The new park will knit Boston’s downtown and its waterfront together again.

There, an urban open space is bordered by surface streets. The park at Copley Square required re-design when an earlier version failed to attract users. The new parks at the Kennedy Greenway will share the surface with roads and walkways. These will connect downtown with the South Boston Seaport district at Congress and Summer Streets and with the North End at Hanover and Causeway Streets.

Peter Smith

The new parks are designed with fountains, lawns, seating, and locations for push cart vendors. The landscape architects have done their part to make this a lively urban environment, said Ms. Wolff. The hope is that it will work as designed.

Computer animation gave a striking vision of the Greenway:

  • a linear park built in sections, to address the needs of different communities
  • definition of each neighborhood section with a different species of tree
  • a promenade along the edge of the North End, where buildings that once turned their backs to the Central Artery are undergoing redesign to face the park
  • a large, outdoor urban “room” for civic gatherings near downtown
  • a museum built as a ship’s hull with its ribs exposed, by architect Moshe Safdie
  • indigenous plantings
  • plenty of gardens, fountains, and seating
  • winter lighting, to make the park more user-friendly in the dark months
  • use of evergreens, trees with berries, and trees with interesting bark
  • a new Massachusetts Horticultural Society museum, with a display garden
  • strong Chinese design influences in the area near Chinatown
    reestablishment of the grid pattern of streets at the Bulfinch Triangle near North Station
  • connection to existing parks at the Christopher Columbus Park on the North End waterfront and the new esplanades on either side of the Charles River

The Central Artery served its function for fifty years, but at a cost. The cost was that it severed the North End from Boston and Boston from its waterfront. Massachusetts invested heavily – in money, in time, and in the disruption of construction – to take it down. Finally, we got it done. The payoff is the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

If the reality is anything like the computer animation, we will be glad we did.

Eric Reenstierna

President’s Report

Awards Presented

Environmentalists of the Year: Jon Regosin, Duane Hillis, and Eric Reenstierna

The Environmentalist of the Year Award this year goes to three individuals who played key roles in the acquisition of Angino Farm. Jon Regosin, Duane Hillis and Eric Reenstierna will share the award this year as each contributed in a particular way to this important milestone. Jon conceived and drove the community farm concept as the foundation for the use of the land and buildings. Duane negotiated the transaction with the broker and Angino family. And Eric handled the legal and other issues related to the acquisition. Of course, real life doesn’t break down quite this evenly and there was plenty of joint effort. Many others also played key roles, but without the hard work and experience that Eric, Duane and Jon brought to this project, it would not have come to a successful conclusion.

All three are members of the Conservators board of directors. Jon is a wildlife biologist working for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. He is president of the newly incorporated Newton Community Farm, the organization selected by the city to operate Angino Farm. Duane runs a commercial real estate business and is a past president of Friends of Nahanton Park. He sits on the board of NewTV and has served as videographer for the Environmental Show on this local cable television station. Eric operates a real estate appraisal and consulting firm. He is past president of the Newton Conservators and previously served on the city’s Conservation Commission.

This will be the 25th Environmentalist of the Year Award presented by the Newton Conservators to an individual or group who has made a distinguished environmental contribution to our community.

Charles Maynard Award: Frank Howard

For the past five years, the Conservators have presented an award invoking the memory and contribution of Newton native Charles Johnson Maynard, a preeminent naturalist of the late 19th century. The award recognizes efforts to improve biodiversity, habitat reclamation and natural resource protection. This year, the recipient will be Dr. Frank Howard, who has worked tirelessly to help develop a disease-resistant strain of the American Chestnut. He is an active member of the American Chestnut Foundation and has brought together specialists in an attempt to pollinate an old chestnut tree in Newton that has so far survived the blight that has killed so many of these stately and once plentiful trees.

Frank is a member of the board of directors of the Massachusetts Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation. He is also on the board of the Newton Conservators and is actively involved in NewTV, where he was for many years the medical commentator for Newton News. He is a retired physician.

Directors Award: Tony and Pam Awtrey

The board of the Newton Conservators voted unanimously to recognize the generous gift of property in a dell through which Hyde Brook flows in Newton Corner. The owners of the property, Tony and Pam Awtrey, approached the Conservators about the gift two years ago and completed the transaction this past December. The gift of land came with a fund for maintenance of the property into the future. Their hope is that other neighbors will make similar donations, piecing back together the area along the brook for the enjoyment of the community. We congratulate the Awtreys for their leadership in making this gift and setting an important example for others to follow.

Directors Award: Jim Broderick

A Directors Award will also go this year to Jim Broderick, who was instrumental in the success of the Ordway Park Endowment Fund. Created with a generous contribution from the Rosenbergs, neighbors of Ordway Park, the Fund has grown from contributions across the city. Like the Eveready bunny, Jim has tirelessly guided this campaign to a successful conclusion. For many years, he has led the Ordway Park Committee for the Conservators, developing designs for the restoration of the property, overseeing annual maintenance and keeping the stewardship of this property front and center for the organization. Recent improvements at Ordway include the installation of granite curbs and planting of shrubs donated by the Newton Centre Garden Club. Jim is a retired English professor, a landscape designer and a member of the board of the Newton Conservators.