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Olmsted Park: Before and after

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Parks and Recreation

The Boston Parks and Recreation Department recently completed a landscape rehabilitation project around Ward's Pond in Olmsted Park, part of Boston’s historic Emerald Necklace.

Funded through the Community Preservation Act and Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s Capital Improvement Program, the project addressed several historic staircases, vegetation rehabilitation, and pathway improvements.

Much of the work involved the removal of dangerous invasive species that contribute to the decline of native pollinators and other beneficial insects, and as a result, the decline of native songbirds.  

Established in 1891, the park is a link in the Emerald Necklace park system designed by its namesake, Frederick Law Olmsted.  Given the inherent beauty of the land, Olmsted made minor changes compared to what he did in the Fens and Riverway.  To reveal the natural features, he designed pathways and planting patterns that would create a series of dramatic vistas that unfold the shapes, proportions and relationships of the landforms.

The park was originally intended to have an educational function.  South of Willow Pond Road, small pools were carved out to be used as natural history exhibits.  When needed funds did not materialize, most of the pools were soon filled in.   On warm summer evenings, Olmsted's sweeping meadow is the scene of spirited neighborhood ball games on what is now Daisy Field, while Ward's Pond remains a peaceful hidden preserve.

Much of the park is heavily wooded, but Leverett Pond, forming the western border, presents a beautiful vista.  Olmsted planned it this way; he favored open and closed landscapes in sequence to create a varied experience for the viewer.   The Muddy River and Leverett Pond form the boundary between the City of Boston and the Town of Brookline.

The Parks Department will continue to work to control the invasive species over the next few years with an extensive restoration effort to bring back in native plantings.

The Parks Department maintains the park in partnership with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, a non-profit citizen's advocacy group whose mission is to protect, restore, maintain and promote the landscape, waterways and parkways of the Emerald Necklace park system as special places for people to visit and enjoy. The organization focuses on the six parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.

Before the Boston Parks and Recreation Department undertook the restoration project, the area around Ward's Pond was overgrown with invasive plant species and pedestrian paths were in need of repair.

 

By spring 2020, the area had been been cleared of invasives, stairs were repaired, and pathways redefined and ready for pedestrians.

 

With restoration work completed, as of June 2020 the area plantings had filled in and the pathways provided a welcoming route for pedestrians through this hidden gem in the Emerald Necklace.