QUIZ: Who Owns Boston’s Parks?

Image courtesy of dailykos.com

Occupy Boston’s  last little tent has been evicted from Dewey Square (although you can still make your own tent if you like, or join Occupy Boston’s Tiny Tents Task Force), so the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway has returned to the people, right?

Well, that depends on whether you think the Greenway actually belonged to the people in the first place. Do you know who owns Boston’s parks? Here’s a quick year-end quiz! Take it, and ponder what we have learned in 2011 about parks, people, power, money, responsibility, and freedom.

Match the park with the entity that owns the site.


  1. Post Office Square
  2. Eastport Park
  3. Boston Common
  4. Boston Nature Center
  5. Arnold Arboretum
  6. Castle Island
  7. Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway


A. Massachusetts Department of Transportation
B. Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
C. The City of Boston
D. The Massachusetts Audubon Society
E. Friends of Norman B. Leventhal Park Trust
F. Massachusetts Port Authority


1.E  Although the Norman B. Leventhal Park, a.k.a. Post Office Square,  is currently owned by a private trust, the City of Boston will take over the park once all its debts are paid off—in 2028.

2.F  Fidelity Investments leases Eastport Park‘s land from the Massachusetts Port Authority—but it must remain open to the public under Massachusetts Chapter 91, which requires public access to all waterfront development. The park became famous in 2001, a year after the park opened, when Fidelity Investments sought to redesign the park and remove a site-specific sculpture (involving 200 tons of Maine granite) by sculptor David Phillips. Phillips sued and lost, but Fidelity seems to have left the sculpture in place.

 3.C  The Boston Common is a genuine city-owned park open to the public… most of the time. The City of Boston has enforced a nighttime curfew there since 2007, and the rules of the Boston Park Commission specify “no person shall… enter, or remain in, any public park between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. on any day except for the purpose of going through such park on the walks or malls thereof…” But even the Common isn’t immune to the marketplace. Mayor Menino and The Friends of the Public Garden, a nonprofit citizens advocacy group, were widely criticized in 2010 for seeking to expand corporate sponsorship and advertising on the Common.

4.D (Mostly)  Set on the grounds of the former Boston State Hospital, this Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary is the site of the Clark-Cooper Community Garden. Clark-Cooper was organized in 1968 by local families from Roxbury and Mattapan, 28 years before Mass Audubon took over the site; the garden is “an autonomous incorporated entity,” according to the Rappaport Institute’s Heart of the City site.

5.C  With a few exceptions, the Arnold Arboretum land is owned by the City of Boston—but Harvard University took out a 1000-year lease on the property in 1882. Harvard pays rent of a dollar a year to keep its trees in Boston.

6.B  Castle Island, “the oldest continuously fortified site in British North America,” was acquired by the Metropolitan District Commission (now the DCR) in 1962. Tours are sponsored by the Castle Island Association (in partnership with the DCR) in season.

7.A  Contrary to the beliefs of hundreds of commenters on Boston Globe and Boston Herald web sites, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy does not own the Greenway; it leases it from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The Greenway recently admitted as much when a neighbor of the Greenway’s Mary Soo Hoo park at the edge of Chinatown called to complain about uncollected trash: the Greenway contact said that only the MassDOT could pick up trash. Nothing happened until the neighbor called up the City’s Constituent Services. The Greenway Conservancy had no such qualms about demanding the city remove protestors from Dewey Square.


  2 Replies to “QUIZ: Who Owns Boston’s Parks?”

  1. Meg Muckenhoupt
    December 28, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    As Michael Kleber pointed out to me, it’s more accurate to say that Harvard University donated its land to Boston, then took out a 1000 year lease. For all the details, see http://arboretum.harvard.edu/about/our-history/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *