East Coast Shoot, Day 5: politicians and park advocates

June 24, 2009

I met former Massachusetts Governor and Democratic presidential candidate of 1988 at the Longwood T stop in Brookline, close to his house.  It was 8:00 am, and I was scouring passengers as they got on and off the busy commuter trains, until a solidly swift-footed man with silver hair and a beige trench coat passed by me, headed straight for Olmsted Park, on the other side of the tracks.  When I caught up with him, he gave me a politician’s handshake, and threw some encouraging words about our project at me as we walked to meet the crew.  Once there, he nonchalantly tossed his briefcase on the wet grass and got straight down to business.

One of the most striking issues Dukakis mentioned in our 40-minute interview was park maintence.  You can build all the parks you want, he said, but they’re virtually useless if not properly maintained.  In fact, the former governor is famous for walking every day the two miles through the park to and from Northeastern University, where he teaches, picking up trash as he goes.  Olmsted believed stridently in this as well, and, especially while working as superintendant of Central Park, was notoriously rigid about the number of hours he wanted maintence crews to work.

Dukakis referenced the Emerald Necklace Maintenence Collaborative, an initiative that brings inmates from local correctional facilities into the parks four days a week to cut grass, pick up trash, and perform other maintenence duties.  On the fifth day, the program then provides them with horticultural and landscape training.  The program has proved enormously succesful.  To learn more about it, click here:  http://www.emeraldnecklace.org/maintenance-collaborative/

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