The Emerald Necklace, Boston

The Emerald Necklace, Boston

Boston’s Emerald Necklace is a series of nine parks interconnected by both pathways and waterways. Boston Common, Public Garden, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Back Bay Fens, Riverway, Olmstead Park, Jamaica Pond Park, Arnold Arboretum, and Franklin Park form a “necklace” roughly 7 miles long. All these parks are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Boston Common (1634), Public Garden (1837), and Commonwealth Avenue Mall (1856) already existed when Frederick Law Olmstead began his designs for six more parks in 1879, starting with the Back Bay Fens. Olmstead, one of the designers of New York's Central Park, also created ways for connecting all nine parks, thus establishing what is now a 1,100-acre chain total. The six parks of Olmstead's plan form a gerrymander from just south of Route 90 (Back Bay Fens) to the final and largest park in the Necklace, Franklin Park, adjacent to Forest Hills Cemetery.

In 1970, the non-profit public advocacy group Friends of the Public Garden formed to help preserve the three oldest (pre-Olmstead) parks, Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall. Numbering some 2,500 members, the Friends work with the Office of the Mayor and the Boston Parks Department, while advocating against encroachment, creating public-and-private partnerships, and maintains endowment funds for trees and monuments.

A newer advocacy group, The Emerald Necklace Conservancy, formed in 1996 and incorporated as a nonprofit in 1998. The Conservancy acts to create joint efforts between city government, local businesses, community leaders, and environmental and park advocates to preserve what it calls “the Olmstead legacy" of the six later parks.

Given the span of the Emerald Necklace, Bostonians and visitors from many parts of the city can access these greenways. In addition, the parks offer concerts, children’s’ programs, ballfields, cycling, rowing, sailing, golf, and fishing. Franklin Park contains the Franklin Park Zoo, and Jamaican Pond Park boathouse is a major attraction in summer. Harvard University manages Arnold Arboretum.

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Massachusetts College of Art, Emerson College, Symphony Hall, and other cultural centers can be found along or very near the Emerald Necklace.