Dear Friend of the Charles River,

During these challenging times of coronavirus and physical distancing, our connections with nature feel more important than ever.

Walks outdoors and in greenspaces are one of the few out-of-the-house activities acceptable under public health guidelines, and they are crucial for our physical and mental health. These moments with nature, be it witnessing a blooming flower or reveling in the return of warm sunlight, keep us grounded, optimistic, and connected.

The Charles River parks are still open, and for many, the river and parks continue to be a treasured respite . If you do visit these spaces, please be sure to practice social distancing. However, we know that many will not be able to safely and responsibly access the Charles River parks.

That's why we're bringing the parks to you with our new newsletter! This is our first issue, filled with parkland positivity and knowledge!
Bringing the parks to you...
Herter Park, named after Massachusetts Governor Christian A. Herter, is located in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood of Boston and extends along the Charles River from the Eliot Bridge to the Northeastern Boathouse. The park's many attractions include biking and walking paths, an active community garden, a playground and spraydeck, and an outdoor amphitheater that hosts performances in the summer. It is the largest section of open parkland in the Charles River Basin, with plenty of parking spots, as well as space for picnicking, playing sports, and relaxing. See Herter Park on a map.
Beyond its amenities and natural assets, Herter Park is rich with history. The parkland was the site of the historic Charles River Speedway, built in 1899. Constructed on marshes, the mile-long oval track hosted horse races and was one of Boston's most popular gathering areas, bringing together horse racers, spectators, and riverside cyclists and walkers. Horse racing at the speedway remained popular until the 1950s, when it was demolished and replaced with Soldiers Field Road.

In the aftermath of the speedway's closure, a new vision for the park emerged, this time centered around the arts. In 1959, the Metropolitan Boston Art Center opened at Herter Park, which featured a public theater as well as a new modernist building to house the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). However, the museum relocated after just two years due to poor attendance, and the theater fell out of use soon after, facing a series of setbacks including corruption, financial woes, and a destructive fire. In 1971, a group called The Publick Theater began using the abandoned space for summer performances, and in 1979 the Metropolitan Park Commission (today's DCR) rebuilt the amphitheater with improved seating, lighting, and a new stage for their use. The Publick Theater continued to program the venue for 38 years until opting for an indoor location in 2009 and leaving the space vacant once again.

In 2016, neighbors formed the Friends of Herter Park , a nonprofit aimed at revitalizing the Amphitheater. Since then, the CRC's Conservancy Volunteers program has partnered with the group to improve and maintain the theater and surrounding area, which has hosted concerts, performances, and more the past several summers!
The expansive landscape of Herter Park supports considerable biodiversity and includes wooded, wetland, and meadow ecosystems, in addition to planted garden beds. Most of the park's trees and plants are still dormant this time of year, but daffodils are among the first flowers to rear their heads.

Hundreds of daffodils are already blooming in Herter Park and can be found along the shoreline, around the amphitheater, and in garden beds. The bright flowers are truly a feast for the eyes after a long, grey winter.

Daffodils are in the  Narcissus  genus and grow from bulbs planted in the fall. Daffodils are most commonly thought of as yellow, but they come in different shades and varieties: yellow, orange, white, large, and small. CRC Volunteer Program Manager Sasha Vallieres' favorite is the "Bridal Crown" daffodil , a sweetly-scented, delicate, and stunning variety which can be found in Herter Park!
"I love introducing volunteers to Herter Park. For many, volunteering though our Conservancy Volunteers program is their first time in the park. Herter Park has so many amenities, as well as an interesting history that people love!"

Sasha Vallieres
Volunteer Program Manager

At a time when the world feels like it's stopped spinning, spring is an inspiring and welcome reminder of nature's ever-present ebbs and flows. Winter is sure to end, and spring in sure to follow.

Though physical distancing makes it hard to stay connected, our shared revelry for nature brings us together--virtually of course!

This spring, celebrate the season's changes and beauty with our community by sharing your pictures and stories on social media using #SpringSighting .
We appreciate your ongoing support during this crisis so that we can continue to steward the Charles River and its parks, a resource that is more important than ever.