Rare Bald Eagle Seen on Charles River Esplanade

Rare Bald Eagle Seen on Charles River Esplanade

Winged Park Visitor One of Estimated 70,000 Remaining Bald Eagles in North America

BOSTON – On a recent morning, while removing debris after a winter storm, a staff member of the nonprofit Esplanade Association observed and photographed a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on the Charles River Esplanade. The eagle flew across a bike path and then settled in a tree near the river.

“After four years with the Esplanade Association, this was the first time I’ve seen an eagle in the Park,” said Renee Portanova, Horticulture Manager at the Esplanade Association. “I was so excited that I immediately stopped our work vehicle to get out and take a photo.”

“The incredibly rare sighting of a bald eagle in downtown Boston is a testament to the natural habitat fostered by the work of the Esplanade Association, including our significant tree care program” said Michael Nichols, Executive Director at the Esplanade Association. “I hope many more visitors to the Esplanade in the coming weeks will have the privilege to see this majestic bird.”

About the Esplanade Association (esplanadeassociation.org)

The Esplanade Association is a 100% privately funded nonprofit organization that works to revitalize and enhance the Charles River Esplanade, sustain the natural green space, and build community by providing educational, cultural, and recreational programs for everyone. Working in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Esplanade Association is dedicated to improving the experiences of the millions of visitors who enjoy Boston’s iconic riverside green space.


Esplanade 2017 Year in Review

2017 was an amazing year for the Charles River Esplanade, as well the Esplanade Association! With your support, we continued to grow our capacity to revitalize and enhance the Esplanade, preserve natural green space, and build community in the Park.

The numbers speak for themselves:

Esplanade Tree Pruning Work to Start Tuesday, December 19

Have you ever noticed downed tree limbs after a big storm? Strong winds and heavy rain/snow can damage trees, especially those that are older or structurally weak. An essential way to keep trees healthy and safe for Park users is pruning! Through a collaborative process involving the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Esplanade Association (EA) annually contracts with local tree care experts to complete pruning work in accordance with the most recent American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards for tree care.

Starting today, until the beginning of January, Bartlett Tree Experts will be in the Park pruning trees between the Union Boat House and Community Boating Inc. This section of the Esplanade contains some of the Park’s oldest trees—those that pose the greatest safety risks from falling limbs. Safety is our priority and pedestrian and bicycle traffic will be redirected away from active work areas as needed.

Bartlett’s work will result in approximately 48% of the Park’s trees being pruned since EA’s Tree Pruning Program began in 2015. EA’s horticulture staff will be supplementing Bartlett’s work by pruning small trees and shrubs this winter. An additional Request for Proposals (RFP) will be issued for pruning work in the early months of 2018, and EA will continue to contract for pruning throughout the Park as our budget allows.

This pruning work is part of EA’s larger strategy to care for Park trees. During Fall 2017, EA hired Kyle Zick Landscape Architecture (KZLA), to develop a comprehensive Tree Care Management and Succession Plan. The plan will build off of an existing tree inventory completed in 2015 to create a multi-year maintenance plan and diversified tree planting plan. Stay tuned for more information – presentation of a draft plan will be announced in early 2018.

Are you interested in supporting tree care? Donate here.

Together with your support, we are ensuring a healthy tree canopy for future generations!

Esplanade Association Names Michael Nichols Executive Director

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (NOVEMBER 9, 2017) – BOSTON, MA – The Board of Directors for the non-profit Esplanade Association (esplanadeassociation.org) today announced the unanimous selection of Michael J. Nichols, of Boston, as the organization’s Executive Director. Nichols, an experienced public servant, attorney, and non-profit professional will begin at the Esplanade Association on November 29.

Nichols joins the Esplanade Association after three years at the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, serving the last 2.5 years as Chief of Staff. At the Greenway, Nichols was responsible for the Conservancy’s community and government affairs, external communications, and advancing strategic priorities. Under his leadership, the Conservancy negotiated a landmark public-private funding agreement, opened Boston’s first fully open-air beer garden, launched the organization’s signature young professional fundraising event, significantly grew earned revenue with innovative activities, and initiated numerous partnerships with other leading Boston institutions for in-park events.

“Michael has proven strategic leadership experience in communicating the value of a public/private partnership to care for – and activate – an urban public park,” said Alexi Conine, Chair of the Esplanade Association Board. “We were impressed with his passion, broad skillset, and record of success in mission-focused government and non-profit work. He will help fulfill the Association’s goal of making the Esplanade an innovative, sustainably-maintained recreational destination and cultural asset. We’re thrilled to have Michael join us.”

The Esplanade Association is the 100% privately funded friends group dedicated to stewardship and improvement of the Charles River Esplanade in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Since the organization’s founding in 2001, the Esplanade Association has raised over $14 million which has funded new Park amenities, restored Park assets and infrastructure, improved horticultural offerings, initiated new programs and public art, managed a robust volunteer program, and made key improvements to the three-mile stretch of waterfront park.

“The Charles River Esplanade is a jewel of Boston parks and I couldn’t be more excited about being named Executive Director of the Esplanade Association to continue the organization’s transformative work,” said Michael J. Nichols. “The Park already has a fantastic mix of signature events and regular activities in addition to its status as Boston’s most peaceful respite from city life. I look forward to working with the Association’s Board, the dedicated EA staff, our partners at DCR, and the Park’s many stakeholders to revitalize and enhance this signature public space.”

“The Esplanade Association plays a key role in supporting the ongoing maintenance, care, and improvement of the Charles River Esplanade,” offered State Representative Jay Livingstone. “I look forward to working with Michael Nichols to ensure the continued strength of this important public/private partnership.”

Nichols, who received both his bachelor’s degree and law degree from the University of Connecticut, began his career in public service as Chief of Staff and Legal Counsel to two state representatives in the Massachusetts Legislature, specializing in public finance and community development. He later served as Research & Policy Director to the full 13-member Boston City Council.

About the Esplanade Association (esplanadeassociation.org)

The Esplanade Association is a privately funded nonprofit organization that works to revitalize and enhance the Charles River Esplanade, sustain the natural green space, and build community by providing educational, cultural, and recreational programs for everyone. Working in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Esplanade Association is dedicated to improving the experiences of the millions of visitors who enjoy Boston’s iconic riverside green space.


Meet the High School Interns


About Thierno:

My name is Thierno Bah. I am 18 years old and recently became a high school graduate from Boston Latin Academy this past June. In the fall I will begin my freshman year. I am originally from Atlanta, GA but I have been in Boston for the past 6 years. I enjoy watching and playing sports in my free time. My favorite sports include football and basketball. I owe my fandom to all Atlanta sports team, and some of my favorite athletes include LeBron James, Julio Jones, and Serena Williams

What are you most proud of that you accomplished this summer?

Completing the internship. And I learned more things than I knew before coming in. Like how to use a weed whacker, mover and blower.

What is your favorite type of work you did?

Creating the tree rings and mulching. Mulch contains water and keeps plants healthy. For a tree ring, you dig out grass and weeds, and the place looks better than it had before you started.

What is something new you learned?

What a weed is. It’s not a certain kind of plant. It’s anything that’s where it shouldn’t be.

Has this changed your future career goals?

I want to study communications but I learned that I enjoy nature and being outside and I like learning different things every day.

Anything else to add?

It was a great experience! I had fun!

Special project:

Cataloging garden beds


About Michael: 

My name is Michael, I’m a student from Boston Latin Academy going into my senior year. Most of my time after school, I volunteer at an afterschool program to help students to give back to the community. My hobbies include binge watching on netflix and hulu or playing games in my free time.

What are you most proud of that you accomplished this summer?

It was a physically demanding summer so I was proud I was able to make it through. I became stronger.

What is your favorite type of work you did?

I liked mulching. It goes around beds and helps the plants.

What is something new you learned?

So many new kinds of plants.

Has this changed your future career goals?

It exposed me to more pathways. Right now I’m very interested in psychology.

Anything else to add?

Thank you for this opportunity!

Special project:

Soil health testing

What’s in that tank?

While out in the park this fall, you may notice our truck with its spray tank filled with a brown liquid and think, “what is that”? Immediately, some of you would assume it’s some sort of chemical. Fear not though, it’s completely safe and organic! The Esplanade Association manages its horticulture program exclusively through organic techniques. One of the tools available in an organic program to address soil fertility and overall plant health is the use of compost tea.

So that begs the question, “what IS compost tea?

The short answer is: A special brew of compost and water and other ingredients. Compost tea helps increase the soil’s biodiversity and improves plant health as a result.

The more detailed explanation is: It’s an brew of beneficial soil microorganisms derived from compost and applied in a liquid form. Natural processes provide all plants the nutrients needed to grow and thrive. These processes include the decomposition of organic material and microorganism interaction with mineral components in the soil. Compost tea is the means to replicate the biology which provide these services in a managed landscape.

As you can imagine, not all plants require the same levels and concentrations of nutrients. To address different plant types, we create different brews: bacterial, fungal, and a combination of the two. The compost used to create the tea must first be ‘healthy’, meaning it contains a diverse biological community. The compost we use is created here on the Esplanade with plant material we remove from the park. This compost can then be ‘activated’ prior to brewing by adding foods such as molasses or kelp. The compost is supplemented with kelp meal, azomite (a mineral), and vermicompost (worm manure). This mixture is then placed in a special bag which attaches to an aerator inside the brewer filled with decanted water (municipal water contains chlorine which kills some of the biologic populations).

The aeration of the tea is critical for the success of the brew. Our staff look to encourage the development of aerobic microorganisms which rely on oxygen rather than anaerobic organisms which could be harmful to the plants. Ingredients are added to the tank and either brewed for 18-36 hours for a bacterial brew or 36-48 hours for a fungal brew.

Once the brew is complete, it’s transferred into our spray tank and must be applied throughout the park within hours of being brewed.  Compost tea has a relatively short shelf life due to it being comprised of living organisms which require both food and a constant source of oxygen.

Now when you see the truck out in the park with brown liquid in the tank, you’ll know it’s compost tea, and maybe impress a fellow curious park-goer with this new knowledge!

Written by Organic Land Care Horticulturist Eric DiTommaso

Eric DiTommaso spraying compost tea in the park.

Phragmites Treatment Pilot Study

In October*, SOLitude Lake Management, in partnership with the Esplanade Association, treated invasive Phragmites or “Common Reed” in the Park. Phragmites are an invasive species that originally came to the U.S. from Europe in the 1800s. Phragmites is a fast growing reed which can produce thousands of seeds each year, regrow from broken root fragments, and can reach up to 15 feet tall! This invasive species has spread through the East Coast and is now a threat along the shorelines of the Charles River. Phragmites form dense mats that exclude native plant species and do not provide shelter or food for wildlife. They also block views of the river from the Esplanade.

In order to combat the spread of Phragmites, SOLitude lake management came into the Park to apply several different treatments such as cutting, laying tarp, and applying herbicide to Phragmites in three locations. Instead of applying the herbicides by spray, SOLitude wiped the stems and leaves of the Phragmites with the herbicide. This will minimize the amount of herbicide that gets into the surrounding environment.

Two weeks after the treatments, the Esplanade Association will take soil and water samples to monitor the presence of herbicides in the treatment area. The findings of this pilot project will have important repercussions for how the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and other local parks agencies manage Phragmites and stop its constant spread through our Charles River.

Funding for this study is generously provided by the Merck Foundation.

Phragmites on the Charles River. Photo courtesy of Charles River Watershed Association.

*Note as of October 11: We previously announced that this work would be taking place on September 5, however it was been delayed.

Announcing “Patterned Behavior” Art Mural

Esplanade Association brings contemporary art to the Charles River Esplanade

Silvia López Chavez creates first commissioned mural for Boston’s historic Park

Boston, MA – – –  (August 15, 2017) – Boston artist Silvia López Chavez will soon begin work on “Patterned Behavior,” the Esplanade’s newest contemporary artwork. It is expected to take approximately three weeks to complete.  Chavez’ colorful mural will reflect the daily cacophony of fast paced bicyclists, skaters, joggers, boat traffic, and the rhythm of traffic that pass daily along the Charles River Esplanade.

The Esplanade Association, an independent non- profit that works to revitalize and enhance the state park, commissioned the non-profit Now + There to curate and produce a mural for the Esplanade in an area located just west of the Massachusetts Avenue bridge. The mural will be visible from the path along the river as well as from Storrow Drive and Memorial Drive. The project will be privately funded through money raised by the Esplanade Association.

The concept for “Patterned Behavior” takes inspiration from The Esplanade’s immediate environment and the many ways this space is enjoyed day-to-day. Elements of the mural unfold as the viewer approaches the work from the east, starting with swaths of color on the pillars and growing in detail and vibrancy into a crescendo on the 120’x13’wall facing the Charles River. Graphic elements such as a bike, arrows, paper airplanes and boats pack a visual punch and blend with playful designs to mimic the patterns created by our interaction with the space. 

Now + There Executive Director Kate Gilbert chose award winning Chavez for her sophisticated use of bright color harmonies and patterns, and her dedication to mentoring young women through collaborative public art works. “Patterned Behavior” is the second commission in Now + There’s Year of the Woman programming and is the first initiative in the Esplanade Association’s newly expanded arts program.

“The Esplanade Association is delighted to be working with Now + There. Our two groups share a vision for building community,” said Alexi Conine, Board Chair of the Esplanade Association. “Bringing creative, relevant public art to the park will offer new ways for people to connect with Boston’s iconic riverside green space. We are confident ‘Patterned Behavior’ will bring great enjoyment and beauty to the thousands who travel along the historic Charles River Esplanade.”

“The Esplanade Association presented Now + There with an exciting opportunity to transform an uninviting section of the park into a destination,” said Kate Gilbert. “We are proud to provide a local artist the creative freedom to reimagine a utilitarian concrete environment into one that will spark new connections.”

This project, which was approved by Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Massachusetts Department of Transportation, community organizations and neighbors, will help transform the area of Bowker Overpass which connects the Charlesgate area to Storrow Drive. Over 100,000 commuters on Storrow Drive; thousands of bicyclists; hundreds of boaters and rowers, as well as many people on the Cambridge side of the River see this section of the Esplanade every day. In addition to enhancing the park experience, the Esplanade Association hopes this mural will help reduce graffiti.

“The Charles River Esplanade is a place where you can find beauty within an ordinary urban landscape,” said Silvia López Chavez. “It is my favorite part of the city where many people and activities intersect and connect in meaningful ways. That really speaks to me, since I am always striving to create art that builds connections. This mural is certainly a reflection of that.”

Press Contacts:

Tracy Davis | Esplanade Association | tracy@tracydavispr.com | 617.529.6513

Barbara Quiroga | Now + There | BQ@QuirogaGroup.com | 617.965.5129

Esplanade Association is a privately funded nonprofit organization that works to revitalize and enhance the Charles River Esplanade, sustain the natural green space, and build community by providing educational, cultural, and recreational programs for everyone. Working in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Esplanade Association is dedicated to enhancing the experiences of the millions of visitors who enjoy Boston’s iconic riverside green space. (www.esplanadeassociation.org)

Now + There is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating temporary, site specific and impactful public art projects in Greater Boston. Its mission is to deliver thought-provoking, public art projects that advance new definitions of public art, acculturate Boston to the cultural, social and economic benefits of art, and help define Boston’s essential public art identity (www.NowandThere.org)

Silvia López Chavez   

With roots in the Dominican Republic, interdisciplinary artist Silvia López Chavez has based her studio and social art practice in the Boston area for over fifteen years. Chavez’ work is informed by her personal experiences as an immigrant, a woman of color, an educator, artist and designer. Her work investigates the basic human need to connect with one another on multiple levels: socially, politically and culturally. She explores the intellectual and emotional narratives of joy, struggle, acceptance, and assimilation that affect one’s daily life. Chavez is motivated by the power of the creative process as an agent for positive change. Her collaborative works with community partners include mural commissions, site-specific installations and pop-up interactions within Boston, Cambridge, Newton, Chelsea, Lynn, Salem, Beverly, Danvers, and Marblehead. Chavez has supported the artistic development of high-school female artists through her work with them on public art projects, and believes mentorship can help shape young women’s lives. In addition to her fine art practice, she is an award-winning design professional, working with corporate and non-profit clients such as Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Boston Children’s Hospital; World Health Organization; World Bank; and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


earth day esplanade association

It’s Earth Day Every Day at the Esplanade Association

earth day esplanade

All leaves collected in the park are collected and turned into compost tea.

Although Earth Day only comes once a year, the Esplanade Association cares for the soil, plants, and organisms that inhabit the Charles River Esplanade year-round. For over three years, EA has been working hard to be more sustainable and have a greater focus on conservation in our park care and public outreach efforts. We have updated our field practices, overhauled our Volunteer Day philosophy, and hired staff with backgrounds in horticulture, environmental science, organic land care, and ecosystem science.

The horticulture staff plant native, pollinator-friendly, and drought-tolerant species to prepare the Esplanade for future dry periods. This summer, with a grant from the Merck Foundation they will begin an evaluation of best practices for invasive plant species removal along the water. Additionally, the horticulture staff composts all of the leaves raked in the Park to use as mulch in the next season, which is complemented by brewing our own compost tea to ensure healthy soil. By pruning trees to keep them healthy, and planting new trees, we keep less CO2 from entering the atmosphere. We’re a fully organic park, along all three miles of the Esplanade.

earth day esplanade

Healthy trees capture and store more CO2.

Beyond these activities, the Esplanade Association is working to raise awareness about the ecology of and threats to the Esplanade. We are creating new programs and outreach materials, such as our Speaker Series, focused on informing visitors about the wide variety of life present on the Esplanade and how human actions are impacting it. Our first lecture in the series discussed Climate Change and Local Solutions, featuring two experts in the field. We hope recent changes to add educational components to our Volunteer Days will create a deeper connection to the park and give people a better understanding of this complex, dynamic green space in the midst of an urban landscape.

The Esplanade Association is also working to make our office environment and organizational practices more sustainable. We have implemented new recycling policies and cut down on the use of paper. Additionally, we are switching to green transportation by utilizing solar vehicles and bikes to transport staff and materials around the park.

Creeping, Crawling, Chaos! Invasive Insects in NE

New England is currently under attack! Thousands upon thousands of wood-boring invaders are coming in through our ports, intent on destroying the trees we hold dear. Yes- Invasive wood-boring pests are on the move and they could be coming to a backyard near you!

The introduction of invasive wood-boring insects is especially threatening in New England. Why you might ask? New England is a trade port center which means lots of shipments from other countries. Insects can burrow into the goods and shipping packing materials and hitch a ride to New England. Every year, between two and three new invasive pest species are introduced. New England is also more susceptible to invasive insects because of our lush forests, which are the perfect habitat for hungry insects.

Who are the main culprits that threaten Massachusetts’ forests? Well, there’s the Emerald Ash Borer which can cause Ash trees to die within three to five years. The Emerald Ash Borer has killed more than 50 million trees and threatens more than eight billion. Another wood-burrowing pest harming New England trees is the Asian Longhorn Beetle which has 12 different host plants and can go undetected for years. There is also the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid which is decimating northeastern Hemlocks, a critical tree species for stream and river ecosystems.

Besides the harsh ecological impacts these insects have, they also do serious harm to local economies. Every year, invasive insects cost two billion dollars for local governments and two-and-a-half billion dollars in damage and lost property value for homeowners. Tree deaths from these invasive insects can lead to trees falling on power lines and houses, which is not only very costly, but very dangerous.

However, there are a number of organization and agencies fighting this menace and they are coming up with new strategies and means to manage and defeat invasive pests. For example, the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has adopted protocols for inspecting agricultural imports specifically for invasive pests. APHIS has also instituted a Plant Protection Quarantine that stops the transport of lumber and wood products from areas where the invasive pests have been found to new regions. However, there is always more to be done. Citizens can also help prevent future invasions and help manage the ones that have already happened– report signs of infestation on neighborhood trees and support greater inspection measures and better trade practices such as inspection of good before export, and the use of plastic or metal packing materials instead of wood. Through local support and raised awareness, we can fight the destruction of our local forests and protect ourselves from later financial costs.

Blog post by Micah Jasny, Stewardship Manager, the Esplanade Association

Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer

Asian Longhorn Beetle

Asian Longhorn Beetle

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid