That time has come!  April, 2011 brings OLMSTED AND AMERICA’S URBAN PARKS (formerly “The Olmsted Legacy”) to a television station near you, via American Public Television.  Check your local listings for details, but below, a list.

City Station Air Date/Time
Albany-Schenectady WMHT April 20, 10 p.m.
Albuquerque KNMD April 24, 6 p.m.
Atlanta WPBA April 23, 7 p.m.
Baltimore MPT2 April 21, 11 p.m.
Birmingham WBIQ April 21, 9 p.m.
Buffalo WNED Date TBD
Charlotte WTVI April 20, 11 p.m.
UNC-TV April 28, 10 p.m.
Chattanooga WTCI April 18, 10:30 p.m.
Detroit WTVS Date TBD
Fort Myers WGCU April 20, 10 p.m.
Fresno KVPT April 19, 9 p.m.
Grand Rapids WGVU April 24, 4 p.m.
April 26, 2 a.m.
Greensboro UNC-TV April 28, 10 p.m.
Greenville-Spartansburg UNC-TV April 28, 10 p.m.
Hartford CPTV Date TBD
Jacksonville WJCT April 19, 9 p.m.
Las Vegas KLVX April 20, 10 p.m.
Los Angeles KVCR April 19, 8 p.m.
Miami WPBT April 20, 10 p.m.
Milwaukee WMVS Date TBD
New Orleans WLAE April 18, 10 p.m.
New York WNET April 20, 10 p.m.
WLIW April 22, 2 p.m.
Pensacola WSRE April 20, 9 p.m.
Phoenix KAET Date TBD
Philadelphia WLVT Date TBD
Pittsburgh MPT2 April 21, 11 p.m.
Plattsburgh Mtn Lake PBS April 21, 9 p.m.
Portland KOPB April 29, 10 p.m.
KOPB Plus April 24, 8 p.m.
Providence RIPBS April 27, 9 p.m.
Raleigh-Durham UNC-TV April 28, 10 p.m.
Reno KNPB April 19, 9 p.m.
Sacramento KVIE Date TBD
Salt Lake City KUEN Date TBD
San Francisco KQED April 24, 2 p.m.
South Bend-Elkhart WNIT April 20, 10 p.m.
Tallahassee WFSU April 21, 10 p.m.
Tampa WEDU April 21, 10 p.m.
April 26, 6 p.m.
Washington DC MPT2 April 21, 11 p.m.



It’s a big week of festivals for Olmsted.  First stop in Nevada City, California on Saturday night at the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival, and then on to Princeton, NJ for the Princeton Environmental Film Festival on Tuesday, January 18.

THE OLMSTED LEGACY joins films and filmmakers from across the globe, and will screen at 7:00pm at the Princeton Public Library – 65 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, NJ.  Executive Producer Mike Messner (writer of this recent op-ed in the Washington Post: “Sometimes money does grow on trees” ) will discuss the genesis of the idea for the film and his efforts to keep Olmsted’s vision alive today.


Olmsted’s landscapes, I like to believe, are both wild and scenic, despite being surrounded by decidedly un-wild and un-scenic urban landscape.  Therefore, I’m thrilled that the film was accepted to this year’s Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Nevada City, California.

If you find yourself in California on Saturday evening, east of the Sierra Nevadas, stop by Nevada City!  THE OLMSTED LEGACY will be playing at Vet’s Hall.  I’ll be there, speaking after the film, and blogging updates!

– Rebecca

If you missed last week’s premiere, don’t fret.  There are still a few more chances to watch THE OLMSTED LEGACY on WHUT.  Some of the times are on the early side, but there is always DVR.  Watch it in HD if you can!

Saturday, January 8 at 10:00PM
Sunday, January 9 at 2:00AM
Sunday, January 9 at 6:00AM

January 2nd, 8:00pm on WHUT in the Washington, DC metro area!

Tune into WHUT available in the Washington, DC metro area, at 8:00pm on Sunday, January 2nd, 2011 for the broadcast premiere of THE OLMSTED LEGACY: AMERICA’S URBAN PARKS featuring the voices of Kevin Kline and Kerry Washington!

Join us for a free screening of THE OLMSTED LEGACY: AMERICA’S URBAN PARKS at the National Zoo in Washington, DC! Tomorrow, October 14, 6:30 – 8:00 PM.



Hosted by our friends at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and Friends of the National Zoo!

Come hear a special panel discussion following the film about the future of America’s urban parks, featuring Charles A. Birnbaum (founder and president, The Cultural Landscape Foundation), Faye Harwell (director and partner, Rhodeside & Harwell), Susan Rademacher (parks curator, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy) and TOL interviewee Tupper Thomas (administrator, Prospect Park and president, Prospect Park Alliance)!

And stay for drinks and small bites!


Below, a schedule of screenings of THE OLMSTED LEGACY: America’s Urban Parks

August 27 – Buffalo, NY at the Marcy Casino in Olmsted’s Delaware park
September 22 – Boston, MA at the Museum of Fine Arts
September 26 – Baltimore, MD at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum (2pm)
September 28 – Louisville, KY at the Speed Art Museum
October 19 – San Francisco, CA at the deYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park

Please check back for more details!

[The premiere of “The Olmsted Legacy: America’s Urban Parks” in Prospect Park on August 4.  Photo by Eugene Patron]

Hope you can join us!  And don’t forget to stop by the Dairy, Central Park’s visitor center, to watch “The Olmsted Legacy” at any time!

City blogs are abuzz about this website that’s showcasing one foundation’s proposal to turn Manhattan’s verdant gem (which they call “New York City’s largest remaining undeveloped parcel of land”) into…

…an airport!

I was sent the site by a friend, and for a few gullible moments, before Google and some reputable blogs proved me otherwise, I was at once terrified and outraged, almost to the point of tears.

Rest assured, the site’s believed to be a fake, as is the foundation, called “The Manhattan Airport Foundation,” which, among other giveaway clues, has its offices at 233 Broadway, on the 58th floor of a building that has only 57.

What was especially clever of “The Manhattan Airport Foundation” is their inclusion of an “interview” with Dr. Harriet Worth, who claims to be the 5th generation grand-niece of Frederick Law Olmsted himself, and is supposedly visiting-chair of the Environmental Studies Graduate Department at HKI (what’s HKI?  Hong Kong Institute?  It’s unclear.).

The article is titled “What Would Olmstead [sic] Do?  Ancestor Sheds Some Light.”  “Worth” for the most part begins with a few accurate snippets about her great uncle x5’s urban theories:

“Part of the reason Olmsted is regarded as a visionary is that he was a master of illusion. His outdoor spaces seem to exist so naturally as to give the impression of predating the surrounding environs. Of course those familiar with his designs know each is a highly-curated, carefully-designed sleight of hand. The rock outcroppings, the reservoir, all of it man-made.”

Of course the reservoir was man-made.  It’s a reservoir.  Anyway, let’s not get finicky.

She goes on, however, to insist that green space in Manhattan, what with High Line park and all those “urban greenways” has become overly abundant, and now should be trumped by “improved access to transportation, creation of jobs for our skilled workforce, and the need to address myriad environmental wrongdoings.”

What would Olmsted say about the Manhattan Airport?  Here’s the best part:

“Olmsted was no sentimentalist. He was nothing if not a pragmatist. For him Manhattan Airport would be that all-so-rare second chance to finally realize his original vision and intent…  He would see this project as a bold opportunity to rise above the dated 19th century concept of catharsis-via-nature: The chance to finally realize his goal of an unparalleled urban oasis fostering the type of transformative experience that only a mixed-use international transportation hub can provide.”

Besides the fact that one of Olmsted’s firmest beliefs lay in the fact that catharsis-via-nature is a timeless concept, his biggest pet peeve was with people who viewed park land as “undeveloped space.”  Clever interview, but I like to think the idea would give him hives, like it did me.

In any case, we thought we’d pinned down every last descendant of FLO’s.  Maybe we missed this one, being that she’s on the other side of the world.  We’ll ask around.  Funny, though, Google “Dr. Harriet Worth,” and you’ll be directed to Harriet Worth’s IMBD page, where you’ll learn that she was second assistant director of the 2008 movie “Doomsday.”  Appropriate.

So, it’s not necessarily convenient that our three days in Boston are scheduled to be rain-filled with temperatures in the chilly mid 60’s (this is especially difficult for the Atlanta-based members of our crew, who came in their shorts and t-shirts, and are now saying “This is what December in Atlanta feels like!”).  The rain makes filming challenging, to say the least.

It’s helpful to think of Olmsted in times like these, when the project you’re passionate about does not go entirely as you planned or as you’d like, when you run into obstacles completely out of your control, and are forced to rethink and re-strategize.  Patience was one of the man’s most defining virtues.

And, looking on a brighter side, perhaps this abundance of wetness can also serve to remind us that Olmsted’s 1876 design for the Emerald Necklace, the park system that connects Boston Common to Franklin Park, began as a flood control project to improve the drainage and flow of the Back Bay Fens.  Olmsted created shelved banks in the Fens, (and later along the Muddy River) sinking them below street level, providing valuable flood space for the river.  He planted these banks with marsh vegetation, set paths along the river and created yet another park space that allowed visitors to separate themselves from the city.

We’re not sure that the rains here will reach flood-levels, but the water level sure is rising.

The Back Bay Fens, 1892

The Back Bay Fens, 1892

Tomorrow morning it’s an early interview with parks supporter and former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, in Olmsted Park in Brookline.  Still to come, pictures and commentary on today’s interview with Alan Banks, Fairsted’s Supervisory Park Ranger.

“There is one large American town, in which it may happen that a man of any class shall say to his wife, when he is going out in the morning:  ‘My dear, when the children come home from school, put some bread and butter and salad in a basket, and go to the spring under the chestnut-tree where we found the Johnsons last week.  I will join you there as soon as I can get away from the office.  We will walk to the dairy-man’s cottage and get some tea, and some fresh milk for the children, and take our supper by the brook-side;’ and this shall be no joke, but the most refreshing earnestness.

photo taken between 1900 and 1910

Central Park boys' playground. Photo taken between 1900 and 1910.

“There will be room in Brooklyn Park, when it is finished, for several thousand little family and neighborly parties to bivouac at frequent intervals through the summer, without discommoding one another, or interfering with any other purpose, to say nothing of those who can be drawn out to make a day of it, as many thousand were last year…  Often they would bring a fiddle, flude, and harp, or other music.  Tables, seats, shade, turf, swings, cool spring-water, and a pleasing rural prospect, stretching off half a mile or more each way, unbroken by a carriage road or the slightest evidence of the vicinity of the town, were supplied them without charge…  In all my life I have never seen such joyous collections of people.  I have, in fact, more than once observed tears of gratitude in the eyes of poor women, as they watched their children thus enjoying themselves… When the arrangements are complete, I see no reason why thousands should not come every day…to use them; and if so, who can measure the value, generation after generation, of such provisions for recreation to the over-wrought, much confined people of the great town that is to be?”

[Frederick Law Olmsted, from his essay, Public Parks and the Enlargement of Towns, 1870]

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