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Boston Tour #1: Boston's Core Parks, Plazas and Greenways
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member NorStar
N 42° 21.678 W 071° 03.058
19T E 331104 N 4691929
Quick Description: This tour will take you through basic public places of Boston, from Columbus Park on the waterfront, through Boston Common and Boston Public Garden, and end at the Back Bay Fens of Olmsted's Emerald Necklace.
Location: Massachusetts, United States
Date Posted: 12/5/2011 7:12:07 PM
Waymark Code: WMD8Q2
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member GEO*Trailblazer 1
Views: 21

Long Description:
Boston is sufficiently large, old, and varied that it is impossible to capture it in one tour. There are already several self- or guided-walking tours, including the famous Freedom Trail. This tour may not be that original - there are sites about Boston parks here and there - though I haven't seen a walking tour with the route I made. But I hope to bring in a different perspective, and bring in the geographical elements where I can.

This first tour is of the 'core' parks and greenways. 'Core' is meant in two ways:
- The 'core' of Boston, is usually refering to the Downtown Crossing, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Financial District, West End and North End sections that roughly sit on the old 'Shawmut Peninsula,' with the exception of Back Bay, which was filled in.
- The 'core' parks and greenways within this section are public places that are generally large, have trees/green or athletic fields, and a crossroads for people to mix.

Thus, sorry, but Fenway Park doesn't count!

About the time and distance estimates, with only a couple exceptions, I allotted a half hour at each location and 2 mph between parks. More could be spent, but this tour introduces them to you.

Est. miles: 6.6
Est. hours: 5.4

With that, let's go!

1. Christopher Columbus Park. You are now at a location that is along the Boston Harborwalk, where you have a view of Boston Harbor in one direction and the tall buildings of the city in the other. Though it appears to be an extension of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, it was actually created in 1976, before the greenway. In addition to the view of the harbor, visit the statue of Christopher Columbus.

Walk - toward the buildings, then cross Atlantic Avenue to point 2.
Miles/Hours in Park: 0.25/0.5
Miles/Hours between Parks: 0.01/0.00

2. Rose Kennedy Greenway. You are now on the newest major park in the city. Not long ago, I-93 was over this location, not under it as it is, now. The park traverses between the North End/waterfront and West End/Downtown. It's too early to assess its success, yet. Several features are being installed to make the park more inviting, such as a tourist information center, a sculpture walkway, and interactive art.

Walk - generally south through the park to India Street. Turn right onto India Street, then immediately left onto Franklin Street, then walk northwest to point 3.
Miles/Hours in Park: 0.2/0.25
Miles/Hours between Parks: 0.2/0.1

3. Post Office Square/Leventhall Park. You are now at an oasis within the Boston Financial District. Leventall Park was redone in 1990. Building dates range from the late 1800s to the late 1900s. At the northern end is a triangular square that has a memorial to Angell, founder of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA).

Walk - Along Congress Street to State Street. Continue across State Street to the steps by Boston City Hall, walk up the steps to point 4.
Miles/Hours in Park: 0.2/0.25
Miles/Hours between Parks: 0.2/0.1

4. City Hall Plaza. You are now at a plaza of brick and stone surrounding Boston's City Hall. This park was created in the 1960s as part of a large redevelopment project stretching from City Hall all the way up the hill. As such, the neighborhood changed from a residential and retail district to mostly government and retail. Though modeled after Italian plazas, this plaza has been cited as a very uninviting space. Plans have been forwarded to totally rework the plaza. The amphitheatre to the north of City Hall is a location for summer concerts, and has been used for sports team championship celebrations.

Walk - Southwest along Tremont Street to point 5.
Miles/Hours in Park: 0.2/0.25
Miles/Hours between Parks: 0.35/0.20

5. Boston Common. The Common is not only the oldest public park in Boston, but the claim is that it is the oldest public park in America. The common, established in 1634, started as cow pasture, but has been adapted over time to include recreational facilities and monuments. Treed pathways that cross at odd angles invite interaction - sometimes unintentially. There are kiosks with the history of the park. The Common is definitely a place between sections of the city. On the southeast side of the Common, the buildings of Downtown Crosssing form a light colored palisade. Architecture varies with the time period - from late 1800s to present. The south edge are more buildings associated with Emerson College and the Theatre District. The southwest edge is adjacent to more open space at Boston Public Garden. To the northwest are houses on Beacon Street that date back to the Federalist period (early 1800s), leading up to the golden domed State Capitol, dominating over one end of the Common. The northeast edge has a mixture of federalist, office and church related buildings. The Common is also the starting point of one of the most famous urban trails, The Freedom Trail. While in the park, be sure to pass by Frog Pond where there is wading in the summer and skating in the winter.

Walk - generally west through the common, or walk southwest along Tremont Street, then northwest on Boylston Street to a crosswalk. Walk across the crosswalk to point 6.
Miles/Hours in Park: 0.33/0.5
Miles/Hours between Parks: 0.01/0.0

6. Boston Public Garden. You are now at the entrance gate to a more cultivated park compared to the common. From the gate, you can see well cared for lawns, trees, topiaries and flowers. This park, established in 1837, two hundred years after Boston Common, is claimed to be American's first botanical gardens. Unlike the Common, which started as pasture land, this park was created out of the muck of marshes that were being filled in for development. A network of paths surround the pond, and cross on a bridge in the middle. The neighborhoods that line Public Gardens are not as varied as Boston Common. The south side has commercial buildings that extend into Back Bay, while the north and west sides are high value residential and commercial buildings that continue the Beacon Hill neighborhood. If you have some extra time, take a ride on the swan boats. To the north are the statues representing the ducks from the book, Make Way for Ducklings.

Walk - generally west through the park to the Arlington Street gate. Turn right and walk across Beacon Street then turn left and follow Beacon Street a short stretch then turn right onto an access road, then over the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge to point 7.
Miles/Hours in Park: 0.36/0.5
Miles/Hours between Parks: 0.25/0.2

7. Charles River Esplanade. You have now stepped onto the network of parks that line the Charles River Basin and the Locks. This park was created around 1910 when the Charles River was first dammed, then dammed again downstream in the 1980s. Part of the expanded Esplanade are still being constructed on the Cambridge side. This portion stays on the Boston side, and goes by the Hatch Shell, the location where hundreds of thousands of people gather to watch the Boston Pops and fireworks every Fourth of July. Turn left and walk over the bridge to the island, then turn left again to return to the mainland and to the place where you entered the park.

Walk - From the point you entered, walk back over the footbridge, walk along the access road to Beacon Street, turn left and walk to the next intersection, turn right onto Arlington Street, then walk to point 8.
Miles/Hours in Park: 0.5/0.5
Miles/Hours between Parks: 0.3/0.20

8. Commonwealth Avenue Mall. You are now at the entrance to a very linear park between the east and west bound lanes of Commonwealth Avenue. The main path is a straight, tree-lined walkway, interupted by streets every block, and by statues within the park. Thus, this park is distinctly different than the previous two parks featured. This park was established in 1857, after Back Bay was filled in, and linked Boston Public Garden with the Charlesgate segment of the chain of Olmsted parks. The neighborhood is relatively homogeneous here: high value residences crowded together line both sides of Commonwealth Avenue, with an occasional church and corner store mixed in. There are many statues along the way, including President Alexandar Hamilton, and a trio of women important in history.

Walk - southwest along the park to Dartmouth Street, then turn left onto Dartmouth Street and head southwest to Boylston Street. Cross the street to point 9.
Miles/Hours in Park: 0.35/0.5
Miles/Hours between Parks: 0.3/0.1

9. Copley Square. You are now at the corner of the other brick plaza on the tour. You are at an urban plaza, the first of two on this tour. This park was created around 1858, after the area was filled in, but it went through major changes both in 1966 and 1991. Copley Square has evolved as the land use around it evolved. The beautiful Trinity Church and the old building of the Boston Public Library flank it and are survivors from the 1800s. Hotels and retail/office buildings line the north side from the 1900s to the present, and the John Hancock Tower dominates it on the southeast side. The Trinity Church is worth spending time to see both the ouside, and if open, the inside, as well.

From here, OPTIONALLY, you could walk down Dartmouth Street to the Back Bay MBTA Commuter Rail and Orange Line Stations. To the right there is the Southwest Corridor Greenway, which is favored by bicyclists to travel between here and Forest Hills. This greenway is more like an assembly of parks, brickways, driveways, and playgrounds. I considered it a bit too far for the walk and there was less there to see. The additional loop is at least a half mile.

Walk - From the corner you entered Copley Square, walk back to Commonwealth Avenue, turn left and continue on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall to the southwest until you reach Massachusetts Avenue. Turn left onto Massachusetts Avenue, then turn right onto Boylston Street and proceed to point 10. Miles/Hours in Park: 0.16/0.25
Miles/Hours between Parks: 1.0/0.50 (most of which continues along the Commonwealth Ave. Mall)

10. Olmsted Emerald Necklace Parks (Charlesgate and Back Bay Fens). You are now on entering one of the most famous parks in the world. This tour only introduces you to the parks and will loop through the Charlesgate and Back Bay Fens parts. For more information, look up the waymarks for each Olmsted Park. To the right are a tangle of ramps, bridge, and river is Charlesgate, which was created by Fredrick Law Olmsted in 1878 to connect the Olmsted parks to the Charles River. Unfortunately, the highway interchange was constructed in the 1960s and altered and downgraded the park to the point where it doesn't connect to either, anymore and the area is a little dangerous, traffic-wise, to walk. The Back Bay Fens, established in 1879, was created as to address sewer issues. The park has significant land area and is bordered by the residences and commercial properties to the north, the Riverway continues from the Back Bay Fens to the south, and a combination of residences, colleges, and museums line the south side of the Fens. The Olmsted Emerald Necklace Parks are known the world over and extend several miles from here. Alas, that will have to be covered in another tour.

Walk - Around the park - a nice loop is to walk through the community gardens, then between the rose garden and war memorial, then across the bridge, then turn left and return to the point.
Miles/Hours in Park: 1.0/0.5

You made it!

Note: If you want to make a loop of it, from point 10, walk northeast on Boylston Street to Massachusetts Avenue, turn left and walk on Massachusetts Avenue past Beacon Street, cross over to the east side of the road, then before crossing the river, walk down the stairs to the Esplanade walkway, then walk northeast on the Esplanade (river is on your left), follow the path all the way past the Longfellow and Craigie Bridges to the Spaulding Center, then walk through North Station/Boston Garden to Causeway Street to the northern end of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, then walk south along the greenway to Columbus Park.
Recommended Time for this WayTour: From: 8:00 AM To: 7:00 PM

Stop Coordinates:
Point 2: N42 21.640 W71 03.153 Point 3: N42 21.350 W71 03.308 Point 4: N42 21.598 W71 03.424 Point 5: N42 21.385 W71 03.745 Point 6: N42 21.269 W71 04.110 Point 7: N42 21.386 W71 04.420 Point 8: N42 21.221 W71 04.290 Point 9: N42 21.007 W71 04.635 Point 10: N42 20.777 W71 05.467

Starting Address for this WayTour:
Atlantic Avenue
Near State Street
Boston, MA United States of America

Number of Stops: 10

Website of stops: [Web Link]

Stop Website: [Web Link]

Visit Instructions:
You must include an original photo showing one of the stops along the tour route.
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