Meditations on the Esplanade
Our city is lined with a beautiful park, let’s appreciate it.
By: Karyna Cheung
When I’m sitting on a bench overlooking the Charles River, I feel at peace. I am able to return to myself.
Every day, thousands of people spend time at the Charles River Esplanade. They run, bike, or go for daily walks with their dogs. Some like to lounge in the grass or use the outdoor gyms along the path. Others use it to commute to work via bike to escape the Boston traffic. Maybe they use it for the same reasons I do: to sit, contemplate, and feel present for a moment. In the city’s concrete jungle, there is something wonderful about that quaint strip of green space.
“I had felt like I had uncovered a not-so-hidden jewel,” said Amber Morris (COM ‘26), describing how she felt when she went to the Esplanade for the first time. She specifically loves running on the trail now, but she also enjoys people-watching during her runs. “I can’t help but notice all of the different types of people roaming the path, some out for exercise, walking their dogs, or commuting to and from work.”
Parks are the kind of place that people will often gather at, but the Esplanade is unique. The extended trails that run through it spread across the Charles River and connect Boston and Cambridge. It’s the only one of its kind in the area; it is accessible from several points, useful for those aforementioned commuters, and provides solace from the hustling energy that sometimes runs through the city. Matthew Eadie (COM ‘24), who uses the Esplanade nearly every day while training as a marathon runner, appreciates its convenience without being further from the city.
“[It’s nice to] have some peace and quiet from the cars and the sirens and everything that we’re used to,” he said.
The Esplanade began as a small waterfront promenade and outdoor exercise area on the Charles River in the late 1800s, built by Frederick Law Olmsted, a Brookline resident. Its original purpose was to serve the residents living in cramped tenements in the Back Bay and West End areas and provide them with more breathing room. The park known and loved by Bostonians today came into being in the 1930s when one of Olmsted’s proteges, Arthur Shurcliff, expanded the promenade into the many paths, docks, buildings, and nature that line the Charles River.
More residents of suburbs of the city use the Esplanade now, and while its uses have expanded from just a breathing space and exercise area, those roots still exist and are a fundamental reason for the park’s success.
Life can be stressful. It can be difficult to feel at ease when you feel burdened by simply existing. Finding a moment for yourself, surrounded by trees and grass, can make all the difference in grounding yourself and reminding yourself of who you are.
Besides being a marathon runner, Eadie is also a tour guide for incoming and admitted students to BU. “I always mention the Esplanade as a great way to get out of campus and just go on a walk,” he said. “It’s not far, but it feels like a whole different world.”
Every person in Boston should take a moment to walk the Esplanade if possible. With cars rushing by on Storrow Drive on one side and the serenity of the water on the other, the path by the river reminds me of the tenuous line between being swept up in the fast-moving city lifestyle and stopping to take in the world that we get to live in.
Being out on a bench by the Charles might be just the thing to do, sometimes.