The Emerald Necklace consists of a 1,100-acre (4.5 km2), or 445 hectare chain of parks linked by parkways and waterways in Boston and Brookline, Massachusetts. It gets its name from the way the planned chain appears to hang from the "neck" of the Boston peninsula; to this day it is not fully constructed.
The Necklace comprises half of the City of Boston's park acreage, parkland in the Town of Brookline, and parkways and park edges under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. More than 300,000 people live within its watershed area. The Emerald Necklace is the only remaining intact linear park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, America's first landscape architect. From Boston Common to Franklin Park it is approximately seven miles by foot or bicycle through the parks.
The Emerald Necklace includes:
Several components of the Emerald Necklace pre-date the plan to unite them. Some links of the Emerald Necklace not only offer an opportunity for recreation in a wooded environment, but are also ecologically important urban wilds that provide nesting places for migratory birds and improve the air quality of the city.
This linear system of parks was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted to connect Boston Common, dating from the colonial period, and Public Garden (1837) to Franklin Park, known as the "great country park."
The project began around 1878 with the effort to clean up and control the marshy area which became the Back Bay and The Fens. In 1880, Olmsted proposed that the Muddy River, which flowed from Jamaica Pond through the Fens, be included in the park plan. The current was dredged into a winding stream and directed into the Charles River. The corridor encompassing the river became the linear park still in existence today. Olmsted's vision of a linear park of walking paths along a gentle stream connecting numerous small ponds was complete by the turn of the century. The parks conceived by Olmsted, from Storrow Drive south to Franklin Park, were collectively listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Olmsted Park System.
Over the past decade, almost $60 million in capital expenditures for parks and waterway improvements have been made in the Emerald Necklace by the City of Boston and the Town of Brookline. These efforts have included improved pathways, plantings and signage, bridge repairs, and the restoration of boardwalks and buildings. In some areas (especially the woodlands of Franklin Park and Olmsted Park) these efforts have only begun to address the over 50 years of neglect the Emerald Necklace has suffered.
Several dedicated parks organizations, including the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, the Friends of the Public Garden, the Franklin Park Coalition, and the Arboretum Park Conservancy, were created to protect, maintain, restore and advocate for the Emerald Necklace parks through the work of their staff, the donations of their constituents and the efforts of their volunteers.
The Emerald Necklace begins near Boston's Downtown Crossing, proceeds along the Boston/Brookline border, then curves into Jamaica Plain. At the south border of Arnold Arboretum, at the point most distant from its beginning, the Emerald Necklace is in Roslindale. It then hooks back up into Roxbury and Dorchester.
Olmsted's original plan called for a "U" shaped necklace which terminated at Boston Harbor. The final link, the Dorchesterway, was never realized.
The Emerald Necklace Conservancy was created 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 Conservancy's programs and funding support and complement initiatives by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, City of Boston and Town of Brookline who began the Necklace's restoration in the 1980s.
A public-private partnership, the Conservancy was formed in 1996 and incorporated in 1998 as a non-profit organization. The organization brings together government, business, residential and institutional representatives, community leaders and organizations, and environmental and park advocates in support of the Olmsted legacy. President Julie Crockford and the staff work closely with the Board of Directors, the Park Overseers (representing all of the parks and friends groups within the Emerald Necklace), the Stewardship Council, and hundreds of volunteers to accomplish their mission.
The Emerald Necklace Parks Master Plan was completed in 1989, and updated in 2001.
The parks have long been subject to flooding from the Muddy River. The Muddy River Restoration Project will dredge contaminated sediments and implement other major structural improvements, unburying the river and improving its integrity, appearance, and flood control capabilities. Phase I - Daylighting the river at the Landmark Center began spring 2009.