Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Remembering the urban visionaries

Worth pausing to remember this day in 1893:

Governor William Eustis Russell signed a bill creating the Metropolitan Parks Commission, the nation's first regional park system. It was the result of planning and politicking by a group of far-sighted Bostonians concerned about rapidly disappearing open space. With its first funding, the new commission acquired over 7,000 acres in the space of 18 months. By 1900, it had protected 9,000 acres and built nine scenic parkways within 12 miles of Boston. Now managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, this system encompasses almost 20,000 acres and includes woodlands, beaches, swimming pools, skating rinks, bicycle paths, and — perhaps its best-known site — the Charles River Esplanade.  

The men behind this movement believed that people's physical, mental, and spiritual well-being all depended on being able to escape urban congestion. Charles Eliot, a leading voice in the call for preserving green spaces, explained, "The life history of humanity has proven nothing more clearly than that crowded populations, if they would live in health and happiness, must have space for air, for light, for exercise, for rest, and for the enjoyment of that peaceful beauty of nature which, because it is the opposite of the noisy ugliness of towns, is so wonderfully refreshing to the tired souls of townspeople."

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