Video: A short history of Boston’s public parks

A photo of the Back Bay fens taken in spring 2012.
A photo of the Back Bay fens taken in spring 2012. –Don Eunson

When 19th-century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted dreamed of what Boston would look like in the future, he didn’t envision skyscrapers. He dreamed of green.

Olmsted spent nearly 20 years creating the Emerald Necklace, nine parks that stretch 7 miles and link Boston Common to Franklin Park. Over the course of his career, Olmsted’s architecture firm designed nearly 5,000 projects in 45 states, including Central Park and the U.S. Capitol grounds.

But his vision for Boston was never fully realized. He hoped the city would be completely encircled by a park system, which never happened in his lifetime.

More than a century after his death in 1903, however, Olmsted’s vision is closer than ever to reality. A new video from City Walk, a television series that explores urban America by foot, shows how the completion of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, which opened in 2008, means Boston almost has a complete circle of parks within its city limits.


Julie Crockford, president of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, explained to City Walk why the ring of parks is so important to Boston.

“Most people have sit-down jobs, and so having the respite to get outside and exercise and get fresh air is equally important today as it was 140 years ago,’’ she said. “So the parks play virtually the same kind of role for people as a respite from harried city life.’’

Watch the video here to learn more about the history of parks in “America’s walking city’’:

15 places to hike within an hour of Boston

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