In the fall of 2010, Julie Crockford was surrounded by friends, dignitaries and the mayor. The occasion? The opening of the Shattuck Visitor Center by the Emerald Necklace Conservancy.
One of the speakers was a member of the Conservancy’s youth program, which helps to foster environmentalism and education.
“One young man who asked to speak had been working that morning on a Conservancy project planting trees,” Crockford remembers, “And he said ‘You know—I never knew you had to plant a tree.’” This was her ah-ha moment. “It was his moment as much as mine,” she said.
“This is the kind of hands-on learning that takes place, that the Conservancy is leading, and for me that means we got him [involved] now.”
Crockford, a Jamaica Plain resident, served as president of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy for almost eight and a half years before leaving last December.
“I’m an avid park user,” she said, noting her continued use throughout her life—from playing in the woods as a girl to walking her dog through nearby Franklin Park. “I’m very much geared to the outdoors and I really can’t imagine living in a city that doesn’t have generous and welcoming open space.”
When she speaks of the Emerald Necklace, one of the last intact linear parks designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, her enthusiasm is obvious.
“He wanted people to experience a real connection to nature. [The parks are] all man-made, but designed to look natural.” She notes that the Conservancy is the lucky beneficiary of his work, posing the question of how difficult it would be to set aside the 11,000 acres that compose the Emerald Necklace today.
“Olmsted was absolutely a visionary,” she said. “This was a man who really connected the dots between public health and the need for fresh air.”
During Crockford’s tenure, the Conservancy worked with the cities of Boston and Brookline as well as the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation to preserve some of the historic trees dotted throughout the park through a comprehensive survey and evaluation of every single tree.
Before arriving at the Conservancy, Crockford was director of external affairs at the Museum of African American History, deputy director of the Boston History Collaborative, and executive director of the Boston Institute for the Arts.
Crockford will continue her nonprofit work and connection with the Conservancy as the executive director of Executive Service Corps (ESC) of New England, a consulting firm for nonprofits.
“ESC works in a collaborative approach with a real action plan, not just a plan that sits on the shelf. It provides a blueprint, not just a vision,” she said.
ESC is composed of the internal staff and supported by leaders in various fields who volunteer their time to give back to the nonprofit community, whether it be through helping to form a management plan or work on a marketing campaign. The Conservancy has worked with ESC on four separate projects.
“Over this career I have developed relationships with the leaders of many nonprofit organizations and I’ve had the ability to collaborate with these leaders on various projects and use each others as resources,” she said. “I feel in coming to ESC I can now pay it forward to those organizations.”
Despite entering a new chapter in her life, Crockford notes the importance of continuing and communicating the Conservancy’s mission to “maintain, restore and protect the parks…for all to explore and use,” calling the Necklace and the parks of Boston the common thread for all of Boston’s communities.
“Parks allow those rich and poor, young and old, to take value in the park’s benefits and nature,” she said. “We need young people to understand that these places need to be preserved. The tragedy would be if young people today don’t see the value of this land and build upon it. It’s not available space, it’s parks.”
This piece was originally published by The Fenway News.
Chronicling my journalistic endeavors.
All ocean conservation/biodiversity posts are my own original thoughts. All other posts are my work for other publications.