Let the Greenway be Conserved as a Green Way

The following is a guest contribution from Bob Skole with his submitted comment letter regarding the Greenway Conservancy’s Guidelines.

Let the Greenway remain a park and a green way.
Otherwise, change the name of the Conservancy.
Is the Working Draft a belated April Fool’s Day joke?

Many thanks for offering the opportunity to comment on the highly amusing “Working Draft” of “Park Use guidelines for public programming, special events and general use.”.

It is undoubtedly a belated April Fool’s Joke. If not, the name of the Conservancy would have to be changed to something honest, like “The Big Dig Legacy Greenbacks Midway Entertainment And Event Promotions Inc., a for-profit business enterprise.” And the name of that gracious lady, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, would not be used, since it would bring down her spirit in wrath for being linked to outrageous, tacky commercialism, with pieces of her Greenway rented out like carnival booths.

The Working Draft starts out seriously — as best satire — describing the Conservancy as “a private non-profit corporation… to ensure standards of excellence in the design, sustainability and use of the Greenway”.

Yes, the Conservancy. And here’s the big wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

According to Merriam Webster,.
Inflected Form(s):
plural con·ser·van·cies
alteration of obsolete conservacy conservation, from Anglo-French conservacie, from Medieval Latin conservatia, from Latin conservare
1British : a board regulating fisheries and navigation in a river or port

2 a: conservation b: an organization or area designated to conserve and protect natural resources.

The Greenway Conservancy is not British, so forget that definition. The second definition refers to the American usage.

Or, as the classic Random House Dictionary of the English Language defines conservancy
Conservation of natural resources.

Thus, calling the Greenway Conservancy a conservancy, when the Draft’s main mission is to organize making money, is like Humpty Dumpty in “Through the Looking Glass”:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

Well, the master of the Greenway is the Conservancy, which makes the Draft a delight for lovers of Alice’s Wonderland.

The Draft starts off with general rules and regulations, which sound terrific for citizens who love their public parks as parks. But the Conservancy now does not bother to enforce its simplest rules for safety and peaceful park conduct. How in the world would it enforce rules, regulations and requirements when heavy-hitting big money pays for events, programs and concerts, exhibits, sales promotions, merchandising, parties, hoopla — with crowds maximized to 2,774 for a Wharf District site, and up to 2,214 for a North End site?

The Draft is a sales promotion brochure. That Wharf site offers 19,420 square feet of center lawn, 7,900 square feet of side lawn, appox. 9,000 square feet of plaza area and 450 square feet of kiosks. Get that last one: that’s big enough for 45 kiosks at 10 square feet each. All that offered for only $3,000-$5,000 bucks for a large event, but everyone’s a non-profit these days, and they get a big discount, as little as two grand. Eat your heart out, Woodstock! Forget about it, City Hall Plaza, Florian Hall and K of C function rooms. We got a brand new venue at the best prices in town. Don Law and Dusty Rhodes, we’re here to do business, Come on down!

Wonderful. Non-profits get a break. But who are non-profits? Everyone thinks a non-profit is a Boy Scout Troop or a Church Aid Society. Nice to give them a discount. But Harvard, with billions in reserves, is a non-profit. EF, the world’s largest educational and travel giant –whose owner is a multi-zillionaire — has its US headquarters in its own huge office building in Cambridge, and it’s a non-profit. Sail Boston’s high paid executives work for a non-profit. And on and on. The Draft’s offering differing prices for profits and non-profits is all part of the wonderful joke.

For the elucidation of those who have not been to the Greenway recently, below are three photos taken July 12. (The woman who sold jewelry from a card table the day before was not in business. Probably sold out.) But a young man was selling photos and posters, a garbage can banger was making noise, bicyclists were narrowly missing pedestrians, and the usual skateboarders included a “sailboarder” being propelled so fast by a plastic sail I had no time to snap his photo. All these violators of the rules were all very active, very noticeable and very flagrantly ignoring posted rules of the Greenway. Police were nearby — their motorcycles were parked on the Greenway — but they were busy directing traffic.

A most entertaining section in the Draft is under “Amplification,” which states that decibel levels may not exceed 70 decibels, and then, to show how quiet 70 decibels is, states in parenthesis, “Normal conversation is 60 decibels”. Actually, normal conversation is generally at 50 decibels, but in Boston, with the T’s noisy buses and loud trucks and motorcycles — not to mention the concerts at City Hall Plaza, where the amplified ear-splitting noise can be heard as far away as the Waterfront — perhaps normal Boston conversation is 60 decibels. OK, so, the Conservancy’s 70 decibel level doesn’t seem a lot higher than a Boston chat at 60 decibels. Except for one thing: decibels are calculated logarithmically and 70 decibels is ten times as loud as 60 decibels. Of course, the Draft warns, “Your event may be subject to sound metering for sound compliance.” Now that’s comforting. Will the Conservancy have noise police at all functions? And what’s the penalty for exceeding 70 decibels? A whisper that the event organizer was naughty?

So here we have the Conservancy, founded with public money, trying to grab business from and compete with private, tax-paying venues, such as hotels, restaurants, function halls. And it’s already started. The Marriott Hotel is a sponsor of the Greenway’s carousel, which is not a free kiddie ride offered by a wealthy sponsor, but charges 3 bucks a ride, double that charged at the historic, private carousel at Old Orchard Beach. What’s next, a bank sponsored roller coaster? Car dealer’s bumper cars? Stock broker’s fortune tellers? National Rifle Association duck shooting range? Until finally the Greenway is turned into one great amusement park and carnival. And after that, I envision a casino ! The dream of promoters, money men, the Vegas crowd — and quite a few politicians!.

Open the door just a crack and the money-talking fun begins.

Yes, the Working Draft must be a gigantic put-on, a practical joke.

But I am told the Conservancy is serious. And the Draft is a start at guidelines for the future — guidelines for making money for the non-profit Conservancy. It’s turning our public parks into money machines. It’s business.

Well, then let the Conservancy be honest and change its name.

Otherwise, let it be a real conservancy and keep the Greenway a green way. Let Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Rest in Peace. Forget the events and entertainment and crowds and haggling over who pays how much and who gets a fat discount. Forget the shameless money-grubbing.

The Greenway’s wading pools and fountains are wonderful for kids and offer wholesome, outdoor free fun. The grass lawns are now enjoyed by hundreds, thousands, for sunning, picnic lunch, quiet relaxation. Does the Conservancy seriously want to kick out the public to make room for private events? Sorry, folks, come back next week. We need the lawns for Joe Shmoe’s Used Car Sale
s Promotion Big Band Celebration– he got a couple thousand well-heeled dealers coming in.

Let the Greenway become as admired and appreciated as our Boston Public Garden — which has no events, no profit-making, no businesses, no commercialization — except the 130-year old Swan Boats. the city’s most silent, most picturesque and cheapest family pleasure. The Public Garden offers greenery, flowers, beauty, peace, quiet.

The Greenway can be the same if the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy is an honest and true conservancy.

Robert Skole


Garbage can drummer, July 12, 2009
Garbage can drummer, July 12, 2009
Bike riders, July 12, 2009
Bike riders, July 12, 2009
Cards, photos for sale, July 12, 2009
Cards, photos for sale, July 12, 2009