The Parklands

“Thus has nature placed and preserved at the very gates of Boston riches of scenery such as many another American city would give millions to create, if it were possible.”  — Charles Eliot



In the 1890s, the pioneering landscape architect Charles Eliot, a protégé of Frederick Law Olmsted, conceived of a vision of public parklands—a democratic common ground—with the Charles River as its centerpiece. Today, the “ribbon of green and blue” of the Charles River and its parklands give area residents and visitors alike an enduring sense of place and a refuge for recreation, contemplation, and renewal. These urban parklands include 19 miles of shore and more than 400 acres of parks and natural areas. Used by more than one million visitors annually, the Charles River parklands are a vital public resource providing pathways, wildlife habitat, athletic fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, and in a densely populated urban area, much needed open space.

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These parklands are part of the Charles River Reservation owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The Conservancy partners with DCR to steward and enhance the lower half of the reservation, from downtown Boston to the Watertown Dam, an area also known as the Charles River Basin.

A 2002 Master Plan by the Commonwealth, calling for the restoration of the Basin at an estimated cost of $32 million, helps guide our work along the Charles. The plan identified more than 30 “improvement zones” and hundreds of projects to restore and enhance the parklands. It features over 40 acres of new parklands and 17 miles of pedestrian, bicycle, and ADA-compliant pathways. To learn more about the vision for the Charles River Reservation, click here to read the 2002 Master Plan.

To learn more about some of the special places in the parklands—click here!