Friends of the Public Garden – Members Reception

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The annual members reception of the Friends of the Public Garden took place on Wednesday at the historic Union Club with keynote speaker Tupper Thomas, former administrator of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.  The Friends work with the Boston Parks and Recreation Department  to maintain Boston Common, the Public Garden and the Commonwealth Mall.  The organization was founded in the 1970s when the state of Boston’s public parks – and many others around the country including New York City’s – were in a deplorable state.  Over the years, the Friends have helped to block damaging developments near the park, sponsor the Make Way For Ducklings sculpture and in many other ways maintain and improve the city’s iconic green spaces.  Ms. Thomas detailed a similar story for Prospect Park which was restored with the hard work of a public and non-profit partnership.  The Q&A session that followed focused on concerns over sustained park advocacy and getting move involvement from younger members.

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Lucy Light Forest

Active apparel brand Lucy transformed a stretch of the pathway in the Esplanade into an illuminated autumn wonderland for a week with 10,000 solar-powered LED lights poking out of the ground.  The display responds to movement by blinking and playing sounds or music.  The “light and sound experience” is meant to “celebrate the movement of women” and the company plans to bring it to other cities.  I met other members of the Esplanade Association to take a walk-through the Light Forest with the beautiful sunset as backdrop.

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Circle the City Open Streets Initiative: Blue Hill Avenue

For the second year, Circle the City Open Streets Initiative closes a main thoroughfare on summer Sunday afternoons in different Boston neighborhoods to encourage residents to engage with each other and to become involved with healthy outdoor activities.  The non-profit’s ultimate goal is to “reimagine” city streets not just for driving but for human interaction and community building.  A tad nostalgic.  On Sunday I headed over to Blue Hill Avenue for the last one of the season.  Over a mile of the avenue between Dudley and Warren streets was divided into 10 “zones” with a different theme in each like fitness, family fun or creative expression (no food zone :-().  Organizations set up booths promoting their causes, goods or services.  Walking from the Dudley end mid-afternoon, the level of participation seemed sparse with just a few sole bikers whizzing by or mothers with children in hand taking a stroll.

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Things picked up towards the middle of the route including in the Green zone which had stands for farmer’s markets and Greenovate Boston.  The fitness zone included booths from bike enthusiasts, yoga teachers and zumba classes.  A representative from a local dance school approached me with a flyer asking if I had any kids or grandkids.  Grandkids????  “You can never tell….”, she said.  I beg to differ.

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I think this was a good way to get an introduction to a neighborhood with which I was not familiar.  As an event, it is still early in its lifecycle but they could probably get more participation if the activities were more well-defined.  There is a schedule available for download or handed out as a flyer, but when you walk by each zone it’s not clear that there is an actual class or presentation specifically being organized.  Also given the length of the walk if you choose to walk the entire way, food and drink stands (healthy ones!) would be welcome.

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Moondance Gala 2013

On September 20th, the Esplanade Association held their annual fundraising gala on the shores of the Charles River.  Officially created in 1910, the Esplanade is a riverside park stretching roughly between the B.U. and Craigie bridges.  It is part of the 17-mile long Charles River Reservation which is a state park and is managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).  The park was formed when the Charles River Dam was built resulting in an artificial river basin where there used to be a tidal basin.  Now flooded, fill was added to the embankment to create a recreational promenade.  The park is accessible via footbridges placed at different intervals over Storrow Drive.  It is probably most famously known for the Hatch Shell performance stage where the Boston Pops perform each Independence Day.  The park is dotted with memorials, there are playgrounds, opportunities to learn sailing and kayaking as well as a shared foot and bike path.  Since moving to the South End, I have started jogging through the Esplanade and it is a nice change from the city streets.  It is probably best avoided after dark if you are by yourself and beware of the cyclists!

 

The Esplanade Association (TEA) is a friends style non-profit formed in 2001 to partner with the DCR to assist in park upkeep, improvements and recreational programming.  They accomplish this primarily through fundraising, advocacy and bringing in other organizations or businesses to sponsor events.  In the summer especially you can see such free programs as yoga and zumba in the park as well as family “fun” days.  Volunteers are coordinated on weekends to assist with cleanup and other maintenance projects.  Last year a composting program was started the results of which were even used this year by the park’s horticulturalists.  In 2010, TEA released a report, Esplanade 2020: A Vision, which details upcoming plans for the park.  It is clear that sustainability is key to the future envisioned by the group.  Two of the “guiding principles” listed are sustainable practices and reclaiming parkland lost to highway projects over the decades.

Part of the annual gala is the Night Owls After Party which is geared towards the young-professional crowd.  I began my search for a formal dress a few weeks ahead of time and to find something sustainably made is like the needle in the haystack.  Part of the problem is material.  Eco-designers tend to use organic cotton and jersey which looks too casual.  Mostly out of exhaustion, I ended up back on Ebay and decided on another H&M Conscious Collection dress, this one from the Party collection available earlier this year.

 

The train of this dress was going to be a problem for me as it dragged several inches on the floor behind me even in the highest of heels.  For $28 I got it hemmed at Best Fit Inc. on Newbury St. I was a little nervous because there are some unflattering Yelp reviews of the service, but they were fine and gave me the dress back after one week.  Like formal dresses,  sustainably-made elegant shoes are another problem to find.  After much searching I came to the self-indulgent, guilty conclusion that I would have to compromise a bit on the sustainability standards to find the appropriate shoe.  I ended up going with this pair of Stuart Weitzman high-heeled sandals.

 

This was somewhat of a least-worst choice for me because, for what it’s worth, the company  does attempt to comply with the California Transparency in Supply Act which requires companies to reveal steps taken to ensure they do not do business with others that employ forced labor and human trafficking, and Stuart Weitzman has for years had his shoes made from the same factories in Spain in which generations of employees are proud to work.  This in no way guarantees social or environmental responsibility, especially regarding the sources of materials, however there are at least some EU labor and environmental standards being met at the point of manufacture.  They are EXTREMELY comfortable even after hours of wear so I expect to wear them to death.

I found a great 1970s vintage necklace on Etsy for about $15.

 

Tickets to the Night Owls portion of the evening were $150 each if bought early, $175 in the weeks prior to the event.  Along with this comes a complimentary annual membership.  It appeared to me as if tickets were on sale right up to the event so I don’t think there was any danger of selling out early.  The party took place under white tents near the Fiedler Field which is most easily accessible by walking over the Arthur Fiedler footbridge.  The entrance to the footbridge is near the intersection of Arlington and Beacon streets.  The exterior was decorated with glowing oblong basket orbs, the interior with the usual white linens, candles and vases with simple flower arrangements.

The food consisted of hors d’oeuvres and desserts.  The former was surprisingly vegetarian-friendly including bites of focaccia with pesto, tomato and cheese and a flatbread with cheese and fig.  There were an abundant variety of desserts from chocolate chip cookies to mini-pots of apple crisp to a variety of cake morsels.  The bars were stocked with donations from Deep Eddy Vodka and Harpoon.  There were also selections from locally-made Berkshire Mountain Distillers.  The cocktails from the menu were not great.  There was a strawberry-basil drink that was really just a mouthful of basil as well as a weak grapefruit concoction.  By 10:30pm it appears they had run out of many things and could only really make a vodka-cranberry.

Around 10pm the DJ began the dance music which – though I enjoyed it – came straight from a wedding circa 1995.  The vast majority of guests wound up on the dance floor.  All ages were in attendance however it did not skew that young.  I would say most were 30s to 40s.  Dresses were both long and short, tuxedos mixed with suits. All in all, a pleasant evening enhanced by the beautiful view of the Charles just a few feet away.

 

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