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“Wentworth and the Back Bay Fens:” Students Embrace the Olmsted Legacy

By Matt Eddy, MMOC Administrator

Wentworth Institute of Technology students taking a summer course entitled “Wentworth and the Back Bay Fens” had the opportunity to tour the recently completed Muddy River Restoration Project. The students, many of whom are engineering and construction management majors, became familiar not only with the goals and achievements of the Project but also the logistics of invasive species assessment, sediment removal, and stormwater management. Project coordination has been particularly tricky for this, the largest US Army Corps project ever undertaken in the New England region—and one made even more complex by its urban setting.

The “Wentworth and the Back Bay Fens” course is the brainchild of Wentworth Associate Professor Cynthia Williams. Previously the Director of the Center for Sustainability and the Environment for the Colleges of the Fenway, Professor Williams describes the elective humanities course as beginning “with the ideals and legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed the Emerald Necklace in Boston and Central Park in New York City and whose Brookline firm shaped outdoor spaces across the U.S., including numerous cities, campuses, and national parks. Reading and viewing establish the context for Olmsted’s influential vision through a range of media, especially historical archives, essays, poetry, short stories, paintings, photographs, and short films. His work acts as a springboard to themes and challenges that have become increasingly relevant in the U.S. in the twenty-first century, including access to green space as a social justice issue, what it means to say a park is public or national, and competing claims on conserved tracts of land, particularly in the American West. Students venture into Boston parks on multiple occasions.”

“Wentworth and the Back Bay Fens” is open to any Wentworth student, particularly those pursuing the B.S. in Climate Resilience, a new major in the School of Sciences and Humanities. Next year, the course will be renamed “Olmsted’s Vision and U.S. Parks.”