Boston’s Great Connector
Charlesgate Park, located at the intersection of Boston’s Back Bay, Fenway and Kenmore neighborhoods, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted as a critical link to connect the Emerald Necklace, Charles River Esplanade, and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall.
Decades of prioritizing road construction over parkland have compromised this once-idyllic space, covering it with a highway overpass, dividing it with new roads and on-ramps and turning its central waterway, the Muddy River, into an armored and polluted environment. Stripped of its amenities and underutilized, what was originally a neighborhood park and a local destination now functions primarily as a pass-through space for pedestrians and vehicles.
Overpasses, armored shorelines and difficult pedestrian and cycling conditions make Charlesgate difficult to navigate and enjoy.
Restoring the Start of Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace
In 2017, Emerald Necklace Conservancy President Karen Mauney-Brodek assisted in the founding of a community group, Charlesgate Alliance, and planned and implemented a public process in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to revitalize this 13-acre green space— the underutilized “clasp” of the Emerald Necklace. Together, the Conservancy, the Alliance, DCR and internationally-renowned architecture firm Landing Studio developed a conceptual revitalization plan for Charlesgate Park, supported by numerous public meetings, site walks and buy-in from public partners and the community.
In 2019, completion of a conceptual design by Landing Studio was followed by major investments of $250,000 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and $400,000 in funds from the Boston Community Preservation Act. These investments allow for the development of a final, shovel-ready design for Charlesgate Park as soon as Winter/Spring 2022. Proposed improvements and amenities for this finalized design include one of Boston’s largest dog parks, a universally inclusive children’s play area and the creation of rain gardens and wetland areas to treat and clean the Muddy River.
Our proposed design will also rebuild and expand a people-friendly and regional pathway network, restoring connections between the Emerald Necklace, Charles River Esplanade and Commonwealth Mall for the first time in more than five decades. When complete, this restored system will allow direct walking and cycling connections between locations as distant as Boston’s North Station, Charlestown, Dorchester, Cambridge and Watertown.