Esplanade Association Presents a Dramatic Vision for the Park

A ferris wheel, the destruction of the Bowker Overpass, and curbing the use of Storrow Drive among big ideas.

After two years of brainstorming, the Esplanade Association unveiled dramatic visions for the future of the Charles River park – ideas that included the possible installation of a ferris wheel, the dismantling of the Bowker Overpass and the redesign of Storrow Drive into a true parkway.

The association's goal is no less than to make the Espalande the best park in the world. Not only would the riverbank park be where much of Boston goes to relax, it would be a major arts venue, a world-class recreational destination and an entertainment center. 

The purpose of the presentation was not to unveil a plan of action but rather to get people interested in and talking about how to improve the park and give it much-needed attention.

"This is a vision. These are a group of ideas. This is not a proposal, this is not a plan," Sylvia Salas, executive direction of the Esplanade Association, said. The century-old park is badly in need of attention after years of neglect have degraded the soil and architecture, according to the group.

The ideas, called Esplanade 2020, were presented Thursday evening to a crowd of about 200 people at the Boston Public Library. While many in the audience were enthusiastic about the scope and creativity of the vision, others were wary about seeing some of the plans materialize.

One of the more eye-popping ideas a few in the audience didn't seem to support was the ferris wheel. In the well-produced audio-visual presentation mentioning the ferris wheel, it's put forth as a possible revenue-generating solution, like the London Eye, which millions of visitors each year pay $20 a piece to ride. At the end of the segment discussing the wheel, the voiceover asks, "Anyone got a better idea?"

An essential component of the presentation involved the redesign of Storrow Drive, which the Esplanade Association says took the park's lawn. "So it's just reasonable to demand a little back," the presentation said. The assocaiton would like to see Storrow Drive as a high-capacity parkway, not as a route drivers use to get from one part of the city to another. 

The Bowker Overpass, they said, slices right through valuable parkland and would not have passed federal guidelines if it were to be built now. The association is proposing that it be dismantled in order to reconnect parts of the city with the park. 

Other ideas included new pedestrian walkways, the redesign of the area around the Museum of Science so that the parking garage doesn't disrupt views, a cafe, new access points to the park, the installation of "fast lanes" for cyclist and joggers, the overhaul of Charles Circle and more. 

All of the concepts are included in the association's encompassing 10-point agenda through 2050:

  1. "Revive and restore the park landscape." 
  2. "Rescue key gathering spaces."
  3. "Rebuild Storrow Drive as a true parkway."
  4. "Redevelop the original Charles Dam."
  5. "Seize opportunities to reclaim parkland."
  6. "Introduce a "fast lane."
  7. "Create beautiful gateways."
  8. "Make the Esplanade a major arts venue."
  9. "Develop a unified park identity."
  10. "Secure the resources to realize this vision." 

The funding to realize some of these visions was not discussed in the presentation other that it would require resources from the state and private and public groups interested in the redevelopment of the park. 


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