Layout of North End Parks for use by event planners as depicted in the revised Greenway Park Use and Event Guidelines
Layout of North End Parks for use by event planners as depicted in the revised Greenway Park Use and Event Guidelines

In response to public input, the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy released revised guidelines, effective August 14, 2009. These guidelines have been approved by the Greenway Leadership Council and the Conservancy Board of Directors. The complete document can be seen on the Greenway Conservancy’s website http://www.rosekennedygreenway.org/docs. It is being reviewed now by the MTA, property owner of the parks. The Conservancy has also indicated that another review and comment period could occur later this year, although the current document is labeled as effective through December 31, 2010.

Conservancy Executive Director Nancy Brennan, highlighted via email the following changes made as a result of the public comments:

Page 1. The Purpose of This Document: The Conservancy and the City will balance the desire for special events and gatherings with the commitment to ensure unobstructed public access to the parks and the need to provide excellent care of the horticultural collections, the sidewalks and paved areas, the fountains and the lawns.

These guidelines provide a framework to ensure continual informal enjoyment of the parks while assisting those wishing to hold events on the Greenway with useful information.

Page 5. Fees for Service: Revenue generated from event fees will be used exclusively to offset the Conservancy’s costs for public programs. Fees for services will be determined according to the nature of the event detailed in your proposal. The more detailed your proposal, the more quickly and accurately we can estimate your fees for services so that they may be part of your organization’s budget development. The menu of services provided may include but is not limited to: set-up, clean-up and maintenance, extra electrical needs, security, on-site staffing, event supervision, trash hauling, security services, recycling services.

Page 6. The Conservancy has implemented a sliding fee scale to remove financial barriers prohibiting smaller non-profits, community, educational groups, and nearby neighborhood groups from holding events on the Greenway. Additionally, if the fee represents a hardship, please contact the Conservancy.

Other changes:

  • The schedule of fees is now included in the document for the first time. Readers of NorthEndWaterfront.com have seen this document that was previously only available as a handout at one of the meetings.
  • The event capacity attendee estimates have been eliminated from the document.

The Conservancy has also listed the dates, times and locations of open public meetings of the Board of Directors and Greenway Leadership Council, please see: http://www.rosekennedygreenway.org/about-the-conservancy/board-members.htm. The next public meeting is on September 1st, which is the Conservancy’s annual meeting. See the Calendar for details.

My thoughts:
I take some comfort that the revisions are a step in the right direction and a response, at least in part, to the comments that many residents including myself submitted to the Conservancy. The broad statements that were added for “public use” are indeed welcome.

Unfortunately, my detailed comments limiting the size, scale and frequency of large events were ignored. The guidelines still allow huge events in the parks with no quantifiable limits or constraints of any kind. In its current form, the Guidelines allow and encourage unlimited, large-scale events with thousands of attendees that will bring disorderly crowds and adversely impact the character of the North End/Waterfront neighborhood. 

I am discouraged that the Conservancy sees “guidelines” as an opportunity to instruct how to ‘rent-a-park’ rather than establishing a framework for open and free public access. I resent the statement that the public needs to ‘balance’ its access with the needs of events.

I remain very concerned that as time goes by and despite the verbal assurances by current Conservancy officials, that the guidelines establish a foundation to make the Greenway an outdoor convention center. Even if we take the current Conservancy’s “trust us” promises at face value, the officials will change over time and the next group will have a clear runway to exploit the parks with no accountability.

As a direct example of abuse by the Conservancy, the wharf district parks were recently rented out to developer Chiofaro to solicit public support for his 700 foot Harbor Garage tower proposal. Click here to read more about the “Quid Pro Quo” between the Conservancy and this developer.

Removing the attendee capacity numbers makes the document slightly less obvious as a brochure for event planning. However, there is still sufficient detail to imply the parks are available for large events with thousands of attendees. Neighborhood residents will be greatly impacted by the stages, sound amplification, portable potties and equipment that will negatively impact surrounding streets.

The “Fees for Services” section of the Guidelines brings the “Rent-a-Park” concept into full view. The Conservancy highlights the sliding scale favoring non-profits and the use of fees toward its own programming. The potential for abuse is very high. Event planners will expect some privacy when they pay for the use of the parks. It is mostly likely there will be roped off or private sections during events. This type of private use, whether for-profit or not, is inconsistent with the desire for open and free use by the public.

Relevant posts:

My Comment Letter Opposing Large, Sponsored Greenway Events

NEWRA Meeting: “Don’t Rent Out Our Greenway Parks”

Let the Greenway be Conserved as a GreenWay

Greenway Events Create Controversy at Leadership Council Meeting

BRA’s Greenway Study – Where’s it Going?

Greenway Conservancy Releases New Protocols For Parklands and Adjacent Development

What is the Quid Pro Quo Between Developer Chiofaro & the Greenway Conservancy?

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I appreciate your anger here, Matt. The funny thing is–the greenest swath of land (across from the Intercontinental) is going to be another "museum." I learned this week that I pretty much have no recourse against musicians who set up shop ad hoc on the parks either; for street performers and musicians banded together, sued the city for the right to perform under free speech, and won. Under…Free Speech. Huh? Only in liberal Mass., where Draconian speech codes permeate all aspects our lives, but music is now speech. Even really, really bad music.

    You talk about a livable North End. I’m above Martignetti’s. I am already on a waiting list (next in line) for an opening in a quiet little nook of our village. I cannot wait.

    Rent-a-Park events are going to destroy the peace — in addition to the often mediocre "musicians" and those "Concerts" on CIty Hall Plaza. This weekend, a loud girl proclaimed her future singing career loudly into my apartment from those hallowed City Hall steps. She cited a talent search website and announced her song: "Hit me with your best shot." She was cocky, and invited the audience to try her at her request, ’cause she could take it. (Oy!)

    I figured, "Hey, a different song by a classic song name." Nope, she was singing the classic … and very, very badly.

    If we can’t get standards for the concerts on City Hall Plaza, expect little for what goes down on the Greenway.

    We’re screwed. :O

  2. P.S. I almost forgot–they also recently took away the right for fitness people to go and have a free class or demo. Yet we can have virtual beggars who play 95% electronic music while strumming one or two cords per minute. Maybe I should open that 24 hour gay bar on the Prado.

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