Boston’s Emerald Necklace – a connected green space 140 years in the making

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image05Since Fall 2015, Imagine Boston has heard a lot of ideas from residents about how to make the city more green. We know that Boston has incredible parks and open spaces, but resident feedback suggests a need more investment and better connectivity to other green spaces and neighborhoods. Completing the Emerald Necklace is one of these big ideas!

The conception of the Emerald Necklace began in the late 19th century when landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted was commissioned to create a park network in Boston, known as the “great country park.” When Olmsted began his plan in the late 1870s, Franklin Park had only recently been incorporated into the city limits with the annexation of West Roxbury, which encompassed all of today’s neighborhoods of West Roxbury, Roslindale and Jamaica Plain. Roxbury itself had only been incorporated into Boston a decade earlier in 1867, and at the time, Roxbury encompassed all of Mission Hill, Fenway, and even part of today’s Back Bay.

In addition to connecting Boston Common and the Public Garden to Franklin Park, another driving force of Olmsted’s vision for the Emerald Necklace was the need to clean up the marshy area that we know today as the Fens and Back Bay, and to create new places for Bostonians to live. By 1880, a complete plan began to take shape that would connect the city’s most treasured open spaces to Jamaica Pond and the newly created Arnold Arboretum, through a new network of streams and linear parks. The marshes were channeled into what is today the Muddy River and the Fens, and new land was created to extend the Back Bay neighborhood.


Although Bostonians today enjoy the legacy of Olmsted’s vision, the Emerald Necklace was never completed.

We heard from many people, including several participants at the Dorchester workshop this summer, that they want to complete the Emerald Necklace by connecting “Franklin Park to the waterfront” and making “Columbia Road a tree lined corridor with grass/green space.”


How do you think the City should best invest in the Emerald Necklace? Are there other green spaces around the city that you believe would most benefit from added attention? Let us know! Check out our emerging ideas page to check out this idea and many more.

Want more ways to get involved? Share your ideas and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #ImagineBoston. And don’t forget to sign up for Imagine Boston updates!

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