Report from Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site: July 15

FLO at the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site
FLO at the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site

Day two of “Passages to Yosemite” brought me to the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site (FLONHS) in Brookline, Massachusetts. This was the home and office of Olmsted and his family from 1883 to 1898, when Olmsted was placed into the McLean Asylum. Olmsted had worn himself out after a lifetime of such dedicated work and accomplishments that rival any other person from the 19th century. His philosophy, principles and practices are gold standards for anyone who is committed to realizing the Declaration of Independence where every citizen has the right to participate in the National, State and City Parks. This is one of Olmsted’s legacies.

Today at the FLONHS, Olmsted was joined by most of the staff members of the site, including the two administrative directors, Myra Harrison, Superintendent, and Lee Farrow Cook, Site Manger. However, for Olmsted it was of equal value to have the dedicated Park Rangers and the many Youth from all across the Nation present. How impressed was Olmsted to grasp the commitments beneath the surface of young people as they seek to find careers for which they may express their compassion for helping to create a better world.

Olmsted meets Myra Harrison, the Superintendent of FLONHS

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We stood next to the Jefferson Elm, which was the replacement tree for the “Olmsted Elm.” Four years ago, disease forced the removal of the beautiful tree standing in the midst of Olmsted’s pastoral landscape next to his home, amidst a wonderfully picturesque natural world of beauty. Last week, I was interviewed by Bob Oaks of WBUR on the subject of the replacement Jefferson Elm, but mostly on Olmsted’s “Yosemite and Mariposa Grove.” Bob is an exceptional interviewer, and he had read Olmsted’s report with an objective passion. We focused on the driving force of Olmsted’s commitment through actions and words, stating that it was the duty of the government to preserve and protect beautiful scenery, such a Yosemite, for all people. Olmsted drove this point home over and over. Clearly, the benefit for health and beauty of Natural Spaces should be free and available for all people.

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As Olmsted spoke, the young people were grasped by the magnificence of the Giant Sequoia. Here were trees in the Mariposa Grove which were over 2000 years in age. When I first asked, ‘How old do you think a Giant Sequoia tree is?’, the response was first 200, then 500 and finally a 1,000.

When I said they needed to double that to 2000, all young and old had as sense of wonder on their face with several ‘wows.’ When I asked how big the seed was, someone raised their hands apart about 10 inches. Then I put my hand out in bowl and said that one Sequoia cone would nestle in the palm of my hand.

“How many seeds?” Someone said 10. When I told them 200, the sense of awe again brought us all together as a group before the Wonder of Nature. And one seed is simply a small speck.

Clearly young and old can be grasped by the power of Olmsted’s life, his amazing works and the legacy he leaves for all of us.

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