In keeping with the comprehensive landscape design bequeathed by Olmsted, the Project calls for rehabilitation of historic bridges and structures.

Photo: Courtney Allender

Our Muddy River

Writing to his landscape firm’s partners in 1893, Frederick Law Olmsted emphasized that the Emerald Necklace Muddy River Park system was “the most important work of our profession now at hand.”

From its meandering waterway and serene ponds to its natural landscapes, scenic bridges, and inspiring vistas, Our Muddy is a testament to Olmsted’s vision of healthful, interconnected environments, urban parks, and diverse, thriving habitats.

“Scenery of a winding, brackish creed within wooded banks: gaining interest from the meandering course of the water; numerous points and coves softened in their outlines by thickets and with much delicate variety in tone and color…the picturesque elements emphasized by a few necessary structures, strong but unobtrusive.” 

Frederick Law Olmsted, 1880

Olmsted’s Muddy River Improvement

In this, the 200th anniversary year of Frederick Law Olmsted, city planners, urban architects, park advocates, and environmentalists are joining in celebration of his remarkable vision and enduring legacy. In parks across the nation, and especially here in Boston, we discover and rediscover the amazing blueprint that Olmsted, his sons, and his firm left us to steward.

  • Before Olmsted, there was no field of landscape architecture.
  • Before there was a Back Bay Fens, communities were disconnected from each other and from the natural environment.
  • Before there was an Emerald Necklace, there was an intractable sanitation problem in late-19th century Boston.

A seasoned veteran of burdensome municipal bureaucracies and politics, Olmsted offered suggestions and proposed his comprehensive plans to the city leaders who initially invited his limited participation. Referring to his Muddy River engineering, sanitation, and landscape park plans modestly as “Proposed Improvement of the Back Bay,” Olmsted knew the value of elevating the entire project area with a new name. Under his direction, the Back Bay Fens became a healthful destination and embodiment of democratic principles.

Olmsted’s plans went far beyond mitigating sewage. He emphasized a host of “salutary” improvements, not to mention the natural, scenic aesthetic and the potential for social uplift of his Muddy River project.

His was also a climate mitigation strategy that continues to inspire contemporary designers and planners.  

Now that The Muddy River Park and the entire Emerald Necklace Park System are in their second century and recognized as some of Olmsted’s finest achievements—comparable to the masterpieces in the Museum of Fine Arts—it behooves the citizens and municipalities of the City of Boston and Town of Brookline to maintain and protect these environments so brilliantly conceived long ago.

It is the MMOC’s intention that generations of urban dwellers will embrace and enjoy the sense of community, peace, and connection that underlies Olmsted’s achievements.

They are now more valuable than ever.

We salute Olmsted200, OlmstedNow, the Olmsted Network (formerly the National Association for Olmsted Parks), the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site/Friends of Fairsted, and countless friends organizations around the world for keeping the Olmsted legacy alive. 

The MMOC looks forward to participating in National Invasive Species Week, International Mud Day, Opening our Doors, Earth Day, National Pollinator Week, our annual Muddy River Symposium, in partnership with the Colleges of the Fenway, and more.

Our member organizations offer wonderful opportunities for environmentalists of every stripe and inclination.

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