In a recent letter to the editor in the Boston Globe Jeffrey Collins, director at…
Victorian NY landscaper advocated for parks –
To Frederick Law Olmsted we all owe a great deal of debt because he advocated for public green spaces.
The restrictions of city life call for the opportunity for a citizen to walk among trees and observe nature in plants, insects, and animals in a public space like a park.
Landscape architect Samuel Parsons (1844-1923) served as Superintendent of New York parks at the end of the nineteenth and into the twentieth century.
In his book Landscape Gardening (1891) Parsons outlined the importance of parks, much in the spirit of Olmsted.
He wrote, “The chief and most important office of Central Park is not to furnish agreeable driving territory for the ‘beau monde’, the millionaires, and the lovers of horseflesh.
“It is not a scheme to please and attract the fashionable, but it is playground for the young people, a pleasant open-air breathing space for the mothers and fathers who desire to go into the country and cannot get there.”
Thus Parsons follows in the tradition of America’s early environmentalist Olmsted.
Parsons clearly spells out in his writing that his work as director of parks in New York included overseeing the grand design of Olmsted, Central Park.
Central Park came to be for city residents who had little or no recourse to escaping the city for the country.
Children and Nature
Today there is much discussion with signs of activity as well on the topic of children and gardening.
Kids have little experience with nature, for many reasons.
So when children maintain a garden at school, at home, or a plot in a community garden, they can see nature at work.
An organization called Kids Gardening encourages children to garden and offers many suggestions.
Rochester, New York seed company owner James Vick (1818-1882) wrote in the late nineteenth century that children who garden learn to appreciate nature.
Parsons contributed to that same tradition in his insistence that kids from the city have an opportunity to experience nature in city parks.