Past Projects & Events

RIBBON OF BLUE, RIBBON OF GREEN GALA

Renata von Tscharner and Laura Jasinski at the 2018 Gala. Photo by Paige Brown Photography.

In June of 2018, the Conservancy held a gala to honor the retirement of 18 year President and Founder Renata von Tscharner as well as the inauguration of new Executive Director Laura Jasinski. The party at Harvard’s historic Annenberg hall hosted over three hundred friends and family and featured music by the Elixir Band, celebrations by Revels, and Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu as emcee. View video from the event.

CCTV PARKLAND SERIES

von Tscharner with special guest, Cambridge Vice Mayor Jan Devereux.

While president of the Charles River Conservancy, founder Renata von Tscharner hosted over 100 TV shows as part of her “Parklands” series. Twice a month, von Tscharner interviewed parkland enthusiasts and advocates at Cambridge Community Television (CCTV)’s Be Live studio. View all of the past CCTV Parklands shows on our YouTube channel.

SUNDAY PARKLAND GAMES

Kids and adults enjoying Sunday Parkland Games at Riverbend Park in 2010.

For eight seasons (2009-2016), the Conservancy, in partnership with DCR, offered free games on summer Sunday afternoons. The Conservancy strives to provide recreational activities where community members can enjoy the river and parks in healthy, active, and innovative ways. Sunday Parkland Games provided this opportunity. All activities were free of charge–anyone could attend and all were welcome. Over 25 games and activities–including paddle ball, corn hole, frisbee, ladder ball, and hula hoops–were set up and facilitated by our partner, Knucklebones, a local athletic and events company. The activities were sized for young children to adults. For the last hour of the day, Cambridge-based Karma Yoga Studio conducted a yoga class, allowing both devoted practitioners and novices the opportunity to relax and stretch by the river.

RIVERSTORIES

River Stories watercolor cover art by Frank Costantino.

Between 2008 and 2015, the Conservancy produced three volumes of River Stories. These collections of memoirs, poems, reflections, and artwork about the Charles River by local writers and artists celebrate the Charles River parks, and the experiences and memories of those who cherish them.

The third volume of River Stories includes written pieces from Pulitzer Prize winning authors Megan Marshall and Stephen Greenblatt, NPR’s Tom Ashbrook, architect William Rawn, and many others, as well as artistic maps from local artists, including award-winning watercolorist Frank Costantino, Tom Gastel, and Carolyn Newberger.

RIVERSING

River Sing 2013. Photo by Michael Kolowich.

In 2004 the Conservancy, in collaboration with Revels, began the annual celebration RiverSing as a way to build community in the parks through an artistic and musical celebration that is free and accessible to all. Now part of Revels’ seasonal calendar, RiverSing attracts thousands from Boston, Cambridge and nearby communities each fall to enjoy Boston area choruses and join in participatory singing across the river.

On a Sunday evening in September, RiverSing participants (including many families and children) gather at the Herter Park Amphitheatre and sing familiar songs. The event concludes with bell ringing and celebratory dancing as the crowd is invited to welcome autumn to the banks of the beautiful Charles River.

PATHWAY RESTORATION

The 18-mile paved (for the most part) path, which stretches along both sides of the Charles River from the Watertown Dam to the Museum of Science and below, is used by as many as 20,000 people a day in good weather.

Thanks to a successful public-private partnership, the Conservancy helped drive a fundraising campaign to repave especially hazardous pathways along the south shore at the Brighton-Newton border. The Conservancy raised $22,000 from bicyclists, park enthusiasts, and foundations. In addition, the Solomon Fund contributed $25,000. With a match from the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs and a contribution by DCR, work in excess of $100,000 was completed.

The Conservancy also works with other advocates and organizations to improve access, ease congestion, and ensure safety and maintenance of the parklands for the sake of cyclists and pedestrians.

BRIDGE LIGHTING

View of the illuminated Weeks and Western Avenue Bridges at dusk.

Since 2004 the Charles River Conservancy has worked to install permanent lighting on four of the Charles River bridges: the Weeks Footbridge, Anderson Bridge, Western Avenue Bridge, and River Street Bridge.

These bridge illuminations both beautify and draw attention to the architectural treasures that connect Boston and Cambridge.

In 2008, the Conservancy worked with light designer John Powell, of Light Time in Space, Inc., and with Luminus, Inc., a firm that makes high-quality LED lights, to illuminate the arches under the Weeks Footbridge. Placed just above water level, the new installation highlights the once-shadowy underbelly of the bridge.  Usually bright white, the lights can also be changed to vibrant colors, as they were during the annual RiverSing event in 2008 when the Weeks Footbridge was the “main stage.”

We’re grateful for the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s support in the permitting process.

ILLUMINATION OF THE HARVARD BRIDGE

Rendering of lighting design for the Harvard Bridge by Miguel Rosales.

The lighting of the Harvard Bridge would be a further realization of the Conservancy’s goal to beautify and bring attention to the architectural treasures connecting Boston and Cambridge.

Working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), who owns and maintains the vehicular bridges over the Charles, the Conservancy held a design competition for the bridge lighting. The selected lighting scheme was conceived by bridge architect Miguel Rosales of Rosales + Partners.

Remaining respectful and deferential to the history and design of the Harvard Bridge, most of the lighting fixtures in the Rosales design would remain hidden, save a series of blue globes that would highlight the steel beams supporting the bridge sidewalks. Gentle, diffused LED lighting would illuminate the bridge’s arches and dramatic granite piers while reflecting on the water below. Linear, interactive lights would also be placed on all sidewalks to highlight the infamous smoot measuring system painted on the bridge by MIT students. Finally, new LED fixtures would bring new light to the bridge’s roadway and sidewalks, greatly increasing visibility and safety at night. View the full Rosales design.

In this process with MassDOT and Rosales + Partners, the cost of the project was determined to exceed the funds currently available. The Conservancy is excited about this project and hopes to see it through at some later point, when the funding and the project cost align. If you are a donor interested in this project or if you would like more information, please contact Ilana Cedarbaum at icedarbaum@thecharles.org or (617)300-8174.

INVENTING THE CHARLES

Cover of “Inventing the Charles River” by Karl Haglund.

During the initial years after the organization’s founding, the Conservancy worked to ensure the publication of “Inventing the Charles River” by Karl Haglund. The book’s chapters, originally part of Haglund’s graduate dissertation at MIT, chronicle the history and development of the Charles River basin and parks. Through “an elegantly phrased and richly illustrated narrative,” as Conservancy Founder Renata von Tscharner describes in her foreword, Haglund uncovers how the Charles River, though imagined as “natural,” is almost entirely man made.