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Celebrating a success and the art of collaboration

Updated: Jul 31

By Charlie McCabe


On Tuesday, I joined a group of about 50 people celebrating the planting of 15 trees in a park in the middle of Boston that is overshadowed by highway overpasses. This is CharlesGate, a portion of Boston's park system where the Emerald Necklace, the Esplanade and the Commonwealth Mall meet. It's also where the Massachusetts Turnpike, the Bowker Overpass, and Storrow Drive meet.


Planting trees in a park may not seem like a big deal—one that would attract three nonprofits, a friends group, two state agencies (MassDOT and DCR), and the help of several state senators and a Boston city councilor to join forces and speak in support of that first step. They were also there to talk about the broader collaboration that started some years ago and will continue for the foreseeable future.


A key announcement on Tuesday was that the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is about to receive $150 million in their capital budget to support the replacement of the bridges that make up the Bowker Overpass and the bridges of Storrow Drive that dominate the sky over CharleGate in several phases. A design by Landing Studio (funded by donations as well as funds from Boston's Community Preservation Act) adds pedestrian and bicycle access, additional green space (including a playscape and a dog park), and restoration of the connection from the muddy river to the Charles River. Overall, it will make another 10 acres of parkland once again accessible to the public, connecting the three previously mentioned parks, while maintaining motor vehicle access.


It's complicated, to say the least.

The story will continue to unfold, there will be setbacks and successes, but in the end, having a plan with a wide variety of partners and funders to work together for years is how efforts like this actually become reality. As a parks and open space consultant, a frequent question from people wanting to improve a public space is, "How can I do this on my own quickly?"


My response is, "You can't." Then I talk about having a plan, having strong working relationships, multiple funding sources, and working across organizations—public, nonprofit, and private—to turn that plan into reality.


Nothing happens by accident. If you see an amazing park, park improvement, program, or other public space, it's because there's a larger group of people behind it, working hard. This is true collaboration. Please support them in any way that you can.



© Copyright 2022, Charlie McCabe Consulting LLC

See my other posts in this series on public park partnerships across the US.

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