Kevin W. Fitzgerald Park awarded level I Arboretum Accreditation by Arbnet Accreditation Program

Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services (Mission Hill NHS) is proud to announce that Kevin W. Fitzgerald “Fitz” Park in Mission Hill has been awarded a Level I Accreditation by The ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program and The Morton Arboretum, for having achieved standards of professional practices and species count deemed important for arboreta and botanic gardens. Fitzgerald Park is also now recognized as an accredited arboretum in the Morton Register of Arboreta, a database of the world’s arboreta and gardens dedicated to woody plants.

The mission of the Kevin W. Fitzgerald Park Arboretum is to provide a place of recreation, education, and beauty in the heart of a densely populated urban neighborhood, fostering feelings of repose amidst the constant activity of life in the City of Boston. Many residents and other visitors love spending time in the park to reduce stress and feel a sense of peace. The arboretum also has a sustainability function, helping to regulate local climate conditions, improve air quality, and mitigate urban heat island effect. Arboretum plantings provide erosion and sediment control and assist in the volume and quality management of stormwater runoff. 

Mission Hill NHS purchased the site with its One Brigham Circle development partners in 2000 and transformed the upper ledge into a 5.5-acre passive park with a fantastic vista of the Boston skyline. The privately-owned park was renamed “Kevin W. Fitzgerald Park” on November 18, 2006, in honor of the Mission Hill State Representative’s passionate leadership and unwavering commitment to the residents and community of Mission Hill throughout his tenure from 1974 to 2002. The renaming ceremony and dedication were organized by Mission Hill NHS and attended by over 1,000 of Fitzgerald’s family, friends, colleagues, institutional partners, and elected officials. In 2021, Mission Hill NHS, in coordination with the horticulturalists at Northeastern University and a cooperative co-op commitment, embarked on the process to designate the Kevin W. Fitzgerald Park an arboretum. “We are so excited to have the park designated with the status of an arboretum and appreciate all those who worked so hard to make it happen.” remarked John Fitzgerald, son of Representative Kevin W. Fitzgerald. “Over the years the park has only become a more beautiful place for our family, and countless other visitors, to relax and reflect, and we are happy that it continues to give back to the neighborhood in that way, just as Dad would have wanted.” 

In collaboration with Chuck Doughty and Stephen Schneider, Director of Horticulture and Grounds at Northeastern University, and various Northeastern Arboretum co-ops, Mission Hill NHS made key decisions on sustainable improvements to the park that would lead it to becoming an arboretum. Schneider emphasizes that “Open space that is maintained as an accredited arboretum often represents some of the most well-preserved biodiversity within the urban environment.  Having individual trees and shrubs accounted for through labeling and cataloging efforts allows us to gain valuable knowledge about the natural world around us all while providing better quality air, water, and soil for our city.  At a time when urban tree canopy is of the utmost importance in a changing climate, commitment to thoughtful, urban forestry management is critical.  The success story of Fitzgerald Park on Mission Hill should serve as a concrete example what direction the City of Boston’s many green spaces need to head in.” 

Mission Hill NHS, residents, and Northeastern University are all excited to have this opportunity to expand the tree species count at the park, helping them to bring the park to its next level as a unique and important greenspace in the neighborhood and the City of Boston. As Mission Hill NHS board member and Mission Hill resident Ellen Moore noted, “Now our neighbors can learn about the importance of trees and sustainable landscaping while they relax and enjoy the beauty of the park. Our focus on adding native species and removing harmful invasives could become a model for gardeners all over the hill; and the birds will thank us! 

The new accreditation was announced to community members by Mayor Wu at the Mission Hill Road Race on September 30, 2023, marking a new chapter in the Park’s history.  Mission Hill NHS believes that with the accreditation will come new opportunities to continue to educate the community and spread awareness about the importance of green spaces in urban communities in the City of Boston.

Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services, the organization that co-owns the park, is a community-based nonprofit housing and economic development organization committed to the revitalization and stabilization of the Mission Hill neighborhood. Mission Hill NHS believes that green spaces can improve the lives of residents in a variety of ways, in addition to providing a space for community building opportunities.

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