With a Friend in the Garden
For many people, a Friday in the Boston Public Garden can be a relaxing escape from the busy city just beyond its boarders. The Garden is relatively small compared to the Boston Commons adjacent to it, but large enough that life on the opposite side of the long rectangle is barely visible through the nearly barren November trees in between. Winding diagonal sidewalks strike through the grassy lawns like icy cuts from a figure skate. On Friday Nov. 22, not even the rain could keep Bostonians and tourists out of the beloved city landmark secured within intersections of Boylston, Charles, Beacon and Arlington Streets.
It especially couldn’t keep out Bob Mulcahy. As project manager for Friends of the Public Garden, Mulcahy’s job is to protect and enhance the scenic environments in the Boston Public Garden, the Boston Common and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall.
He sat close to the ground in a red zip-up jacket. The post-rain shower drizzle sprinkled the air in the garden. He arrived ahead of schedule for the walkthrough to discuss the plans for the Boylston Street renovation project. His wide blue eyes gazed upward with the comforting friendliness that a child might see in her pre-school teacher. His soft voice spoke professionally but his mouth rarely strayed from a crescent-shaped smile.
Whether Mulcahy knows it or not, his role suits him perfectly. A self-described country mouse but lover of the city, Mulcahy is guardian of the scarce bits of country aesthetic in Boston that look like they could have been dropped into the city by aircraft. His hometown of Stow, Mass. hosts a population of around 5,000 people and boasts an area of 18 square miles. “It’s more known for open space and apples,” said Mulcahy. He now calls a place in West Roxbury his home.
Mulcahy worked as project manager with the City of Boston’s Parks and Recreation department before he joined Friends of the Public Garden just over two years ago. The non-profit organization, now more than 40 years old, aids the City of Boston with the preservation and upkeep of the three parks through private funds.
“Truly what it takes is a team of people and neighbors who are conscientious of the property itself,” said Mulcahy.
The Friends’ newest project, and the purpose of Mulcahy’s visit on that Friday, is the beautification of the Boylston Street border of the Public Garden. The goal of the project is to aestheticly enhance the 900-foot Boylston Street edge with new plants and seating areas and to correct engineering issues, including rainwater drainage systems. Although the project may seem small-scale, especially compared to the outdoor living room that the Friends created while renovating the Brewer Fountain Plaza, every project involves an in-depth planning process, according to Mulcahy. The Boylston Street Border Renovation is a project four years in the making.
“It was more just timing and the regulatory process,” said Mulcahy. The Friends commenced the renovation in late September after their extensive planning process was approved. “With any municipality that you deal with there’s a process that must be taken.”
At the beginning of each year, Mulcahy’s list of projects seems endless. “It’s a never-ending process, and you always have to advocate and you always have to push,” he said.
But as each project is completed, and he takes a look at what the Friends organization had accomplished, it all pays off. “I always feel accomplishment when I can see all of the check marks throughout the whole year,” Mulcahy said.