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Charles River Conservancy Inc

 43 Thorndike Street, S3-3
 Cambridge, MA 02141
[P] (617) 608-1410
[F] --
www.thecharles.org
crc@thecharles.org
Renata von Tscharner
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INCORPORATED: 2000
 Printable Profile (Summary / Full)
EIN 04-3503656

LAST UPDATED: 01/05/2017
Organization DBA CRC
Former Names --
Organization received a competitive grant from the Boston Foundation in the past five years Yes

Summary

Mission StatementMORE »

The Charles River Conservancy (CRC) is dedicated to the stewardship, renewal, and enhancement of the urban parklands along the Charles River, working to make this extraordinary public resource more active, attractive and accessible for all.

The Charles River Reservation’s Lower and New Basins include 20 miles of shoreline, from the new harbor locks in Boston to the Watertown Dam, and more than 30 parks and green spaces along the way. The “ribbon of green and blue” of the urban river and its parklands give residents and visitors alike an enduring sense of place and a refuge for recreation, contemplation, and renewal. 

The staff and volunteers of this small but effective public-interest organization work together towards this shared vision of renewing our urban river parklands, which have the potential to be world-class parks. Building on the legacy of landscape architect and visionary Charles Eliot, the CRC focuses on providing what he called a, “democratic common ground for the enjoyment of all.”  

Mission Statement

The Charles River Conservancy (CRC) is dedicated to the stewardship, renewal, and enhancement of the urban parklands along the Charles River, working to make this extraordinary public resource more active, attractive and accessible for all.

The Charles River Reservation’s Lower and New Basins include 20 miles of shoreline, from the new harbor locks in Boston to the Watertown Dam, and more than 30 parks and green spaces along the way. The “ribbon of green and blue” of the urban river and its parklands give residents and visitors alike an enduring sense of place and a refuge for recreation, contemplation, and renewal. 

The staff and volunteers of this small but effective public-interest organization work together towards this shared vision of renewing our urban river parklands, which have the potential to be world-class parks. Building on the legacy of landscape architect and visionary Charles Eliot, the CRC focuses on providing what he called a, “democratic common ground for the enjoyment of all.”  

FinancialsMORE »

Fiscal Year Oct 01, 2015 to Sept 30, 2016
Projected Income $629,719.00
Projected Expense $613,860.00

ProgramsMORE »

  • Advocacy
  • Conservancy Volunteers
  • Lynch Family Skatepark
  • Sunday Parkland Games
  • Swimmable Charles Initiative

Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2013 (%)

For more details regarding the organization's financial information, select the financial tab and review available comments.


Overview

Mission Statement

The Charles River Conservancy (CRC) is dedicated to the stewardship, renewal, and enhancement of the urban parklands along the Charles River, working to make this extraordinary public resource more active, attractive and accessible for all.

The Charles River Reservation’s Lower and New Basins include 20 miles of shoreline, from the new harbor locks in Boston to the Watertown Dam, and more than 30 parks and green spaces along the way. The “ribbon of green and blue” of the urban river and its parklands give residents and visitors alike an enduring sense of place and a refuge for recreation, contemplation, and renewal. 

The staff and volunteers of this small but effective public-interest organization work together towards this shared vision of renewing our urban river parklands, which have the potential to be world-class parks. Building on the legacy of landscape architect and visionary Charles Eliot, the CRC focuses on providing what he called a, “democratic common ground for the enjoyment of all.”  

Background Statement

It all began around 1998, when Renata von Tscharner, an architect and urban planner, found herself inspired while teaching at Harvard’s Radcliffe Seminars. She had given her landscape students an assignment to design spaces along the Charles River; in the process she realized that what these parklands needed was someone to advocate for physical parkland improvements, improved public access, and to build awareness about the River.

“I started the Conservancy because I love the Charles and I wanted to get many more people involved in taking care of the parklands and making the river swimmable,” says von Tscharner.

Since 2000, von Tscharner’s passion, combined with a strategic vision and tireless work, has translated into an organization whose advocacy efforts, care for and maintenance of the parkland have made noticeable improvements. Von Tscharner has worked tenaciously to make the Charles River Parklands more active, attractive and accessible for all of us.

The Charles River Conservancy believes that parks are more than simply amenities; they are necessary for healthy urban living. The water vistas offer respite, but require access and places to linger. The many miles of waterfront pathways offer unique opportunities for walkers, runners, inline skaters and bicyclists, but path maintenance is often inadequate, and the lack of continuity reduces safety and pleasure. The Conservancy is working to fix these issues and make the Charles River Reservation a world class urban parkland. 


Impact Statement

The Charles River Conservancy strives to make the Charles River parklands more active, attractive and accessible. CRC takes on challenges it believes will improve the river and its parklands for all of us. This past year was no exception: 

The Lynch Family Skatepark: after over a decade of planning and fundraising, the skatepark opened in Fall 2015.  It was observed that the skatepark "may be the most heavily used park per square foot in the Commonwealth."

Swimmable Charles: continuing the success of 2013’s first community swim in the Charles River in over 50 years, the Conservancy brought the public back into their river in 2014 and 2015. The Charles River Community Swimming program is an initiative the Conservancy began over a decade ago. Public swimming in the Charles River has been banned for over 50 years due to pollutants; however after extensive cleanup efforts, the river is again swimmable over 80% of the time. After three years of successful community swims, the Conservancy is planning more community swim events for the summer of 2016 and working to establish a permanent location in the future.
 
Conservancy Volunteers: we have maintained our strong volunteer presence on the banks of the Charles, with over 2,000 volunteers cleaning, painting, and pruning at 65 service events throughout the year. Through these events we have engaged students from elementary age through college, community members, and employees of corporate supporters.  

Advocacy: we will continue our work with MassDOT to ensure that underpasses are included with upcoming bridge reconstructions. We will also advocate for the addition of an “Allston Esplanade” as mitigation for the upcoming realignment of the I-90 highway interchange in Allston.

Sunday Parkland Games: the Conservancy continued its summer tradition of holding games on Sunday afternoons along the river.  In 2015, over 200 participants of all ages and abilities were welcomed each weekend to enjoy the parklands, recreational activities and yoga.


Needs Statement

Needs Statement 

1.     The Conservancy needs a special fund to transition the organization from a volunteer president to a paid executive director with an expected annual salary of $125,000.

2.     The Conservancy needs a Grant Researcher & Writer, at an expected annual salary of $40-55,000.

3.     The Conservancy needs an events coordinator at an expected annual salary of $40-55,000.

4.     The Conservancy needs additional board members. Current board members are highly engaged in the CRC's programs and advocacy efforts. However, we hope to add individuals to our board who have expertise in event planning, fundraising, technology, and public-private partnerships.

5.     The Conservancy needs assistance in starting an endowment campaign for the organization’s financial sustainability.

6.     The Conservancy needs new office space with no less than 12 workstations, two private offices, one small and one large conference room. We are seeking discounted or donated space in which to relocate our team. It is important that this space be near public transit. If not donated, the estimated cost of new office space is $50 – to $70,000 per year.  


CEO Statement

 

I live near the Charles River, and many Sunday walks took me to its banks. I realized how much this river meant to me, and how much joy the verdant banks added to my life. I biked on the pathways. I inline skated on Memorial Drive when it was closed on Sundays. I windsurfed out of Community Boating. I took my children to picnics in Herter Park.

In the late 1990s, it became clear to me that the urban Charles River Parklands needed a voice. Not just my voice, but thousands of concerned citizens. The first step in the founding of the Charles River Conservancy was formulating that need and identifying the tasks and skills needed to address them. As a city planner whose career had focused on public spaces and urban livability, this challenge seemed a good match for my experience and passion. It also seemed like an excellent opportunity to translate good European urban planning practices into my new country, where innovation and tenacity are welcome. Such a challenging task needs many minds and hands, as well as funding. Recruiting committed and experienced board members was my first task. I was fortunate to quickly enlist talented professionals who helped formulate a vision and build an organization.

 


Board Chair Statement

I first came to Boston for college and quickly discovered that walking along the riverbanks of the Charles was one of the great joys of student life.  Its meandering flow provided hours of happy procrastination and discovery, with a bonus of gorgeous, mind-expanding views. Returning to the city years later, I joined the Advisory Board of the Conservancy because I wanted to learn more about this extraordinary resource and help protect and enhance its beauty. In my work with the CRC, I am inspired by the vision of our founder, the tireless energy and creativity of our young staff, and the deep dedication of my colleagues on the board. One of the highlights has been the ribbon-cutting of the Lynch Family Skatepark in North Point Park in November 2015. On that windy morning, we proved that this team can overcome any obstacle, and that achieving our mission makes all the effort worthwhile.


Geographic Area Served

In a specific U.S. city, cities, state(s) and/or region.
Greater Boston Region-Allston / Brighton Neighborhood
GREATER BOSTON REGION, MA
City of Boston- Allston/ Brighton
METROWEST REGION, MA
City of Boston- Citywide (Indiv. neighborhoods also listed)
City of Boston- Beacon Hill/ West End
City of Boston- Charlestown
City of Boston- Back Bay
City of Boston- Downtown

City of Boston, City of Cambridge, City of Watertown, City of Newton

Organization Categories

  1. Environment - Environmental Beautification
  2. Community Improvement, Capacity Building - Alliances & Advocacy
  3. Recreation & Sports -

Independent research has been conducted on this organization's theory of change or on the effectiveness of this organization's program(s)

Under Development

Programs

Advocacy

 

A key component of the Conservancy's mission is advocacy for the parklands and the bridges within them. Our efforts focus on advocating for increased or alternative park funding and on crafting and commenting on legislation that affects the parklands. As part of our advocacy initiatives, we take responsibility for educating elected and appointed officials, as well as the general public, about the needs and opportunities of these important green spaces and the need for adequate public funds to maintain them.

Advocacy, education, and public outreach are often intertwined. Establishing and maintaining close working relationships with like-minded advocates and media groups are crucial for success. The staff and directors, along with CRC supporters, all play a role in this advocacy effort. Writing e-mails and letters, briefing policy makers, appearing at hearings, attending meetings, active engagement on social media are all important components of our advocacy program for the Charles and its parklands. 

Budget  $70,000.00
Category  Public, Society Benefit, General/Other Infrastructure
Population Served General/Unspecified
Program Short-Term Success 
Advocacy for the Parklands takes many forms, some of which have already shown results. That the CRC is serving as a watchdog helps all parties with an interest in the parklands to work harder for creative solutions to existing problems. Significant progress has already resulted from these advocacy efforts:
  •  Securing MassDOT approval of pedestrian and cycling underpasses at the Anderson, River Street, and Western Avenue Bridges and working closely with MassDOT on the design of such an underpass at the Anderson Memorial Bridge
  • Securing legislation for funds for traffic calming & pathway widening on Nonantum Road
  • Creating a state commission for a swimmable Charles River
  • Ensuring community benefits from private developments along the water
  • Improving access to the water’s edge through support of pedestrian bridge and pathway renovations as well as through invasive species removal as part of our Conservancy Volunteers program
  • Establishing an agreement with DCR for the operation and upkeep of a new skatepark
  • Improving parkland structures, enriching cultural and recreational use
  • Establishing a shoreline maintenance plan working with DCR and municipal Conservation Commissions
Program Long-Term Success 

 

Until recently, the parklands could not be used to their full potential. Polluted water and the resulting foul smells made the parklands unattractive until the 1980s. Former industrial areas, like the New Basin, remained unusable until around 2005. Now that the water quality has improved, the possibilities for new attractions on the river’s edge are manifold.

The CRC’s advocacy efforts focus on finding new ways to make the parklands more user-friendly. The pathways along the river have huge potential for commuting and recreation, especially given the growing popularity of bicycles. While the Esplanade’s Hatch Shell is already an established event venue, areas in Herter Park and the New Basin offer many previously unexplored opportunities for drawing people to the Charles. As private abutters develop new buildings near the water, there will be opportunities to enlist those abutters in furthering our mission and to gain new improvements for the parklands.

 

 

Program Success Monitored By 

The CRC has a full-time projects coordinator who writes press materials and applications on such efforts as the addition of bridge underpasses. An advocacy committee of directors and advisors oversees and evaluates the efforts.

We gauge our program success by:

  1. Evaluating the growth and strength of coalitions
  2. Surveying parkland users (surveys come in multiple languages)
  3. Asking our volunteers and partners for feedback
  4. Tracking media voices and social media responses

 

 

 

 

Examples of Program Success 

One early example of success was CRC’s role in mediating between the MDC (predecessor of the DCR), the Conservation Commission, and the Head of the Charles organizers when they disagreed over shoreline cutting. We helped to negotiate a best practices shoreline management plan that was agreeable to all parties.

More recently, program success was demonstrated through the partnership of fifteen community groups, MassDOT and DCR overseeing the design of a pedestrian/bicycle underpass at Anderson Memorial Bridge. After six years of advocacy, the Conservancy secured MassDOT’s support for pedestrian/bicycle underpasses at three locations along the Charles and for the immediate design of the first such underpass. Through careful and thoughtful design, crafted with the feedback of fifteen community partners, the Conservancy was able to gain the support of DCR in this crucial venture, ensuring the success of an underpass at Anderson Memorial Bridge.


Conservancy Volunteers

 

The Conservancy Volunteers Program started in 2002 with a grant from the George H. and Jane A. Mifflin Memorial Foundation and the support of MDC employee Alan Morris. This program is widely regarded as one of the premier volunteer opportunities in Greater Boston. Combining environmental education, hands-on learning, and active participation in landscaping, the program allows participants to experience the outdoors and give back to the community. Many have discovered that volunteering with the Conservancy is a great way to meet new people and gain valuable experience while participating in a life-enriching experience that enhances community resources.

The Conservancy Volunteers program invites corporations and individuals of all ages and ability levels to come together for a day of community service and environmental stewardship. Volunteer projects include leaf raking and shoreline cleaning, planting bulbs, painting benches and railings, removing invasive plants, and pruning trees.

 

Budget  $120,000.00
Category  Environment, General/Other Environmental & Urban Beautification
Population Served General/Unspecified
Program Short-Term Success 

 

Each year, some 2000 Conservancy volunteers remove many invasive plants; organize a highly successful and over-subscribed Earth Day clean-up; restore shorelines; paint railings and up to 250 benches; maintain and widen pathways, plant daffodil bulbs; and host more than 50 volunteer events. All volunteer events are designed to encourage both individual and group participation.

In addition to the concrete successes described above, the CRC's volunteer events are helping to build a constituency for whom the knowledge gained and the connection made with the Charles River leaves a lasting impression that brings with it a desire to return to the River again and again and to serve as advocates for it when needed. 

Program Long-Term Success 

  • Volunteer projects and events improve the landscape for the many individuals who live near or visit the River. They also build awareness of and appreciation for these public assets and their importance to urban living. The goal is to turn our volunteers into advocates.
  • Working along the River, Conservancy Volunteers experience the beauty of this recreational asset and are more likely to become active parkland users.
  • The Conservancy's close and successful working relationship with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the municipal Conservation Commissions enables us to take on some larger-scale landscape projects. One such effort includes replacing invasive knotweed with native plants.

 

Program Success Monitored By 

A full-time CRC staff member oversees all the activities of the Conservancy Volunteers program. The CRC tracks the number of people who have volunteered, total service time donated, and the monetary value of that work. The CRC also looks at completed projects, miles of maintained parklands, capital improvements and numbers of daffodil bulbs planted.

 

The large number of repeat volunteers--both individuals and organizations--is a testimony to the program’s success. DCR staff and local Conservation Commissions, the groups that provide the permits for our volunteer events, also provide important feedback. DCR staff also actively participate in planning volunteer events.

Examples of Program Success 

Between 2002 and 2016, more than 25,000 volunteers contributed an estimated $1.8 million of donated labor, and 350 companies have chosen to work with the Conservancy. Many volunteers come year after year, and also make monetary contributions to the Conservancy. More than 2,500 young people have participated in landscape volunteer work and received environmental education.


Lynch Family Skatepark

 

In 2001, the Conservancy began to advocate for the development of a public skatepark and in 2004 began major fundraising efforts. Over the next ten years, the Conservancy worked in partnership with the Department of Conservation and Recreation to design, plan, and permit the Lynch Family Skatepark, located under the ramps next to the Zakim Bridge in East Cambridge. The Lynch Family Skatepark, a 36,000 square-foot accessible facility designed by Stantec, was constructed in 2015 by Valley Crest Landscape Developers and California Skateparks. Over 2,000 athletes attended the opening of the skatepark in November 2015. 

Budget  $2,750,000.00
Category  Recreation & Sports, General/Other Recreation & Sports, General/Other
Population Served Adolescents Only (13-19 years) Children and Youth (0 - 19 years) Families
Program Short-Term Success 

 

The CRC involved more than 400 skateboarders in the design process. This education and outreach effort, made possible by a grant from the Boston Foundation, led to a world-class design that incorporated iconic skating spots from around the Boston area, and helped the CRC get the full support of elected and appointed officials on the local and state levels.

The skatepark site is located on an environmentally contaminated brownfield, requiring additional permits as well as strict construction procedures. In addition to capping contaminated soil with an all-ages athletic venue, the skatepark site contains multiple easements and required the permitting and partnership of a dozen agencies, ranging from local municipalities to private corporations to the Federal Highway Administration.

The many site constraints, public input, and the inclusion of tributes to local landmarks and skating elements for all ages were all incorporated into a world-class facility by Stantec. The Lynch Family Skatepark is a “wheel-friendly” park with bowls, ramps, transitions, and street skating elements for all kinds of users – skateboarders, roller skaters, bmxers and more. The skatepark is accessible for wheelchair athletes, and has been called the “most heavily used park per square foot in the Commonwealth.”

 

Program Long-Term Success 

The Lynch Family Skatepark offers a fun, free alternative to more traditional sports, helping children, adolescents, and adults to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. As the largest professionally designed and accessible skatepark in New England, the Lynch Family Skatepark is an amazing addition to the East Cambridge park system, one that greatly promotes activity and continued improvement in the Charles River Basin. The skatepark also serves as a regional attraction for skateboarding competitions and even as an art venue, strengthening the community image and providing an important new opportunity for area youth. This former industrial wasteland surrounded by roads, train tracks, and a gravel processing plant has become an urban playground.

Program Success Monitored By 

 

The skatepark project is managed by the CRC’s full-time projects coordinator and is overseen by Board members. In addition, we have maintained contact with Boston area skaters, and we frequently receive messages of gratefulness and joy as new skaters discover the park every day.

 

Examples of Program Success 

A non-profit organization funding the construction of a public park on state land was an unprecedented venture – no non-profit had built a skatepark of this magnitude before. With a $5,000 seed grant from skater Tony Hawk, the CRC launched a capital campaign. Skateboarders and their parents actively participated in the fundraising, and the State Legislature, the City of Cambridge, and Boston’s Redevelopment Authority all pledged funding support. Despite agency mergers and significant DCR budget cuts, the CRC has sustained the excitement and commitment for this bold idea and been able to turn it into a reality, even getting the attention of skating mainstay Vans footwear, which donated $1.5M to the construction of the park and an additional $25,000 each year for seven years to DCR for maintenance and upkeep. In addition to raising $5.1 million over the course of this project, the Conservancy also received over $1 million in pro-bono legal services from WilmerHale.


Sunday Parkland Games

 

As part of its mission to make the river’s parklands “more active, attractive, and accessible to all” the Charles River Conservancy offers members of the community recreational opportunities along the banks of the river. Since 2009, the Charles River Conservancy has hosted free games and athletic activities designed for the whole family. The CRC contracts with Knucklebones, a private company, to provide both the equipment suitable for all ages and experienced, enthusiastic game leaders. Conservancy staff is also present to answer questions about the organization and our other programs and initiatives. Many attendees are eager to sign up for the Volunteer Program or to help advocate for bridge underpasses. Other partners, such as Karma Yoga and Wellbridge, have offered their help and staff to showcase their offerings.

 

Budget  $25,000.00
Category  Recreation & Sports, General/Other Physical Fitness
Population Served Families
Program Short-Term Success 

Since the start of the Sunday Parkland Games in 2009, we have witnessed countless family members engaging with each other and having a good time. Many groups return Sunday after Sunday, attracted by the sense of community created by the Games, as well as by the colorful equipment and the opportunity to have fun. They also become interested in other CRC projects such as our volunteer program or advocacy efforts. Because of the success of the Sunday Games, the company Knucklebones was also hired by the Esplanade Association to offer games downriver.

 

Program Long-Term Success 

 

The objective is to create the place to go for Sunday fun for all ages, a weekend "home" that is close to home. By providing games, guidance, and enthusiasm for outdoor recreation, this program is designed to promote a healthy and active community now and in the future. The goal is not just to get people out in the parks, but to foster a life-long love for these amazing resources.

 

Program Success Monitored By 

The Sunday Parkland Games are organized and overseen by a part-time CRC staff member who attends all sessions. This person tracks the number of participants, their average length of stay, and also gathers anecdotal information about the program and participants. The CRC coordinator invites participants to sign in so that they can be sent future e-mail newsletters.

 

Examples of Program Success 

In 2009, Sunday Parkland Games attracted an average of 300 individuals per event. In the subsequent years, there has been a steady rate between 200 and 400 people. For most seasons, the games have been held by the Weeks Bridge. This location has provided steady foot-traffic that has enabled not only the return of groups week after week, but also the attraction of new participants who happen upon the games. Hoping to reach a new members of the greater-Boston area, the 2016 season will be split between two unique river communities. The first half of the summer, the games will be held in North Point Park in East Cambridge. For the second half, the games will move upriver to Herter Park in Allston. We believe these two locations will offer two benefits. First, locations will allow members from different neighborhoods to enjoy the games closer to their own homes. Second, visiting these two parks for the games will encourage exploration of these distinctive parklands.


Swimmable Charles Initiative

For hundreds of years, swimming in the Charles River was a popular summer activity. However, in the 1950s, public health concerns about polluted water grew, and swimming in the Charles was banned. Thanks to the hard work of many government agencies and non-profit and community partners, water quality began to improve in the 1990s. In 2007, funding provided by the Boston Foundation allowed the Conservancy to hire a Swimmable Charles Initiative coordinator.

Water quality monitoring completed by the EPA shows that the Charles River now meets water quality standards for swimming the majority of the summer. In 2013, the Conservancy celebrated this accomplishment with the first community swim in the Charles River in over 50 years. The popularity of this event (with 200 swimmers jumping in and another 100 participants on the waitlist) allowed the Conservancy to continue holding these swim events, or CitySplashes, in the Charles every year. 

Budget  $40,000.00
Category  Recreation & Sports, General/Other Swimming
Population Served General/Unspecified
Program Short-Term Success 

Between 2010 and 2013, the Conservancy completed two years of daily water quality monitoring and held three water quality workshops, which brought together experts from federal and state agencies, nonprofit organizations, and universities to share results from their respective monitoring programs. During this time, the Swimmable Charles Initiative coordinator also staffed the Governor-appointed Charles River Water Quality Commission, a legislative commission convened to determine the feasibility of swimming in the Charles. Through study and analysis, the Conservancy partnered with the Charles River Watershed Association to create a report on water quality in the Charles.

In 2013, the CRC held the first community swim event in the Charles River in over 50 years. This event generated a great deal of publicity from television news and from newspapers, including The New York Times, the Boston Globe, and local papers, as well as over 75 national and global media outlets which ran the Associated Press article about the swim. The success of this event allowed the Conservancy to plan another swim event in 2014 and two events in 2015. Since the first event in 2013, the Swimmable Charles Initiative has brought over 1,000 swimmers into the waters of the Charles and continues to grow in popularity each year.

Program Long-Term Success 

The CRC envisions a river fit for swimming, with easy public access and safe swimming areas. The long-term goal is to have several swimming sites on both sides of the river. Where the river is shallow, the problem of contaminated sediment must be addressed. There will be significant costs associated with removing or capping the sediment and installing clean beach sand. Thus development of swimming areas will require both capital expenditures and ongoing operating funding. Under current state budget constraints, it is unlikely that the DCR, which manages the land on both sides of the river, will be able to fund these new beaches. Thus the CRC will explore alternative funding mechanisms for swimming facilities, including public-private partnerships and fundraising events. To date more than $500 million of mostly public funds have been spent to clean up the river. The CRC will lead the way in securing additional funding and ensuring that it is used to achieve the goal of once again allowing the public to swim in the Charles.

Program Success Monitored By 

The Swimmable Charles Initiative is staffed by the Conservancy’s full-time project coordinator who works closely with Board members and community partners that make up the Initiative. Part of this Initiative is the Charles River Water Quality Commission, which is still ongoing since its creation in 2009. Members of the Commission include: five state legislators; representatives of the Massachusetts Departments of Public Health, Environmental Protection, and Conservation and Recreation; and representatives of the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Charles River Watershed Association.

Examples of Program Success 

The first swim race to take place in the Charles River since the beaches were closed in the 1950s was organized jointly by the Conservancy and the Charles River Swim Club in 2007.

Another important accomplishment to date in the CRC’s effort to return swimming to the river was our advocacy for establishing a legislative Commission to study the feasibility of returning swimming to the Charles River. The Commission has brought the necessary decision-makers together in a productive format to consider the opportunities and challenges of returning swimming to the River.

Years of effort paid off in 2013, when the CRC held the first community swim in the Charles River in over 5 decades. Subsequent swims each summer continue to gain momentum and grow in popularity, propelling the Swimmable Charles Initiative toward its goal of permanently restoring recreational swimming to the Charles River.


CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

 

When I started the Conservancy in 2000, the owner of the parklands at the time, the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), was just completing a New Basin Master Plan. The budget to implement the suggested improvements ranged from $50 to $100 million, but it was clear that significant funding and advocacy would need to come from private sources. The CRC recognized this challenge, and approached it by building constituencies and calling upon many individuals and groups to help by donating and/or volunteering.

Improving the parkland is a big undertaking. But many citizens love to volunteer and by having several thousand landscaper volunteers work with the CRC every year, and though our Conservancy Volunteers program, we have built a corps of parkland stewards. While some individuals who volunteer as landscapers have become donors, corporations who sponsor volunteer events now regularly contribute funds to the CRC. Through this model, the Conservancy contributes to the daily ongoing maintenance and enhancement of the parklands, and helps to develop supporters from our constituency.

But bigger ideas and projects are also required to help the parklands become world-class resources. The Lynch Family Skatepark is the culmination of years of advocacy, fundraising, design, negotiation and construction. To take an unusable brownfield under the ramps of the highway and turn it into a thriving park is at the heart of the Conservancy’s mission.

Coming up with an idea, raising funds, and finding a partner who can carry on the program is an approach that works well for an innovative but small organization such as the CRC. We look forward to pursuing the next goal of re-establishing swimming the Charles.

 

Management


CEO/Executive Director Ms. Renata von Tscharner
CEO Term Start Jan 2000
CEO Email rvt@thecharles.org
CEO Experience Founder and President Renata von Tscharner, brings over 30 years of experience in non-profit leadership, project and fiscal management, marketing, and organizational development. Trained as an architect and urban designer in Switzerland, Renata's professional life has focused on planning and improving public spaces. Renata has worked on the Covent Garden market in London, co-authored several books, and taught at various colleges in the United States. Since the Conservancy was first formed in 2000, von Tscharner has volunteered her time, further demonstrating her total dedication to the Charles River Conservancy.
Co-CEO --
Co-CEO Term Start --
Co-CEO Email --
Co-CEO Experience --

Former CEOs and Terms

Name Start End
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Senior Staff

Name Title Experience/Biography
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Awards

Award Awarding Organization Year
Julius Adams Stratton Prize for Intercultural Achievement Friends of Switzerland, Inc. 2015
Olmsted Award American Society of Landscape Architects 2013
Zone Conservation Award Garden Club of America 2011
Centennial Luminary Esplanade Association 2010
"Upstander" Award Facing History and Oursleves 2008
Organization of the Year Cambridge Community Television (CCTV) 2008
"Out of the Blue" Award Boston Foundation 2007
Medal of Merit Garden Club of America 2005
Boston Authors Award for books about Boston Boston Authors Club 2004
Best of Show Bookbuilders of Boston New England Book Show 2003
Communications Honor Award American Society of Landscape Architects 2003
Distinguished Friend Award Boston by Foot 2003
Excellence Award Boston Society of Landscape Architects 2003
Trade Illustrated category of AAUP Book, Jacket, and Journal Competition Association of American University Presses 2003

Affiliations

Affiliation Year
-- --
Member of state association of nonprofits? No
Name of state association --

External Assessments and Accreditations

External Assessment or Accreditation Year
-- --

Collaborations

Collaborations and partnerships are key to all our projects and programs. All the land we maintain is under the care of the State's Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and all landscape projects require a permit from the relevant municipal Conservation Commission. Adjacent municipalities - Boston, Cambridge and Watertown - are also important partners.

While the Conservancy works on 10 miles of the river, there are several other organizations that are active in specific areas. They are:

The Esplanade Association

Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association (re: Magazine beach)

Friends of Riverbend Park

Friends of Herter Park

Watertown Friends of the Riverfront

Emerald Necklace Conservancy

Downtown North Association

Allston Brighton Civic Association

New Basin Citizens Advisory Committee


Organization with related missions that we often partner with include:

The Charles River Watershed Association (CWRA)

Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM)

State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF)

Sierra Club

Massachusetts Department of Public Health

 

As part of our advocacy work on the bridge underpasses we also work closely with:

Livable Streets

MassBike

Institute for Human Centered Design

Cycle Kids

Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (MAPC)

And 30 other thoughtful leaders who have signed on.

 

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

Like many other non-profits, the CRC was started by a passionate advocate who assembled a group of like-minded volunteers. In order to accomplish what it needed to do in the beginning, interns and recent college graduates were recruited, and gradually more experienced professionals joined the staff. Today, the Conservancy has six full-time professionals (including our full-time volunteer president). Our organization benefitted enormously from the managerial training sessions provided by the Boston Foundation and other groups that support non-profits. The Boston Foundation also organized meetings for non-profit groups with similar missions or of similar size to facilitate an exchange and learning process. Board members and advisors experienced in human resources have played an important role by helping the President with recruitment and personnel issues. 

Foundation Comments

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Staff Information

Number of Full Time Staff 6
Number of Part Time Staff 1
Number of Volunteers 2,600
Number of Contract Staff 4
Staff Retention Rate % 100%

Staff Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 0
Caucasian: 0
Hispanic/Latino: 0
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 7
Other (if specified): 7
Gender Female: 0
Male: 0
Not Specified 7

Plans & Policies

Organization has Fundraising Plan? Under Development
Organization has Strategic Plan? Under Development
Years Strategic Plan Considers N/A
Management Succession Plan Under Development
Business Continuity of Operations Plan Yes
Organization Policies And Procedures Yes
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistle Blower Policy Yes
Document Destruction Policy Yes
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy Yes
State Charitable Solicitations Permit Yes
State Registration Yes

Risk Management Provisions

--

Reporting and Evaluations

Management Reports to Board? Yes
CEO Formal Evaluation and Frequency No N/A
Senior Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually
Non Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually

Governance


Board Chair Ms. Debra Iles
Board Chair Company Affiliation Harvard Kennedy School
Board Chair Term Mar 2013 - Mar 2017
Board Co-Chair --
Board Co-Chair Company Affiliation --
Board Co-Chair Term -

Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
Mr. Ron Axelrod Architect & Construction Manager Voting
Ms. Virginia Foote C Change Investments LLC Voting
Ms. Jennifer Gilbert VIVA Consulting Voting
Ms. Catherine Henn Former General Counsel - Boston Globe/Boston Globe Foundation Voting
Ms. Debra Iles Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government Voting
Ms. Pam Kocher Public Policy & Government Relations Voting
Mr. Steve Kropper Parallel Wireless Voting
Mr. Edward LeFlore CSL Consulting, LLC Voting
Mrs. Nicole Manseau Raytheon Corp. Voting
Mr. Harry Mattison Autodesk, Inc. Voting
Ms. Joan Pickett Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Voting
Mr. Tom Reece Collora, LLP Voting
Ms. Robyn Reed Richard Burck Assocaites, Inc. Voting
Ms. Renata von Tscharner Charles River Conservancy Exofficio
Mr. William Ward P.E. Voting

Constituent Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Youth Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Advisory Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
Mr. Jay Baldwin Wind River Capital Partners NonVoting
Mr. Jarrett Barrios American Red Cross NonVoting
Mr. Jeffrey Bilezikian Mill Lane Management NonVoting
Mr. Dan Calano Architect NonVoting
Mr. Dennis Carlone Carlone & Associates NonVoting
Mr. Philip W. Crutchfield Harvard Business School NonVoting
Mr. John DeVillars BlueWave Capital LLC NonVoting
Ms. Catherine Donaher Catherine Donaher & Associates NonVoting
Mr. Michael Dukakis Politician NonVoting
Mr. Michael Epstein Retired NonVoting
Mr. Paul Fremont-Smith Retired NonVoting
Mr. John Isaacson Isaacson, Miller Voting
Mr. John Issacson Issacson & Miller NonVoting
Mr. Mark Kraczkiewicz Community Volunteer --
Ms. Frans Lawaetz Broad Institute NonVoting
Mr. Henry Lee Retired NonVoting
Ms. Linda Lerner Executive Consultant NonVoting
Mr. Paul Moyer Gill Engineering NonVoting
Mr. Robert O'Brien Former Executive Director, Downtown North Association NonVoting
Ms. Geri Pangaro Retired NonVoting
Mr. Matt Petrie Chan Krieger NBBJ NonVoting
Ms. Patricia Pratt Landscape Designer NonVoting
Ms. Candace Roosevelt Pathfinder NonVoting
Mr. Richard Saltzberg Charles River Publishing NonVoting
Ms. Nancy Schön Artist NonVoting
Mr. Bruce Schwoegler MySky Communications NonVoting
Ms. Amy Segal WilmerHale NonVoting
Mr. John R. Shields Shields Design NonVoting
Ms. Lisa Stone Winsor School NonVoting
Mr. Paul Walker Global Green USA NonVoting
Ms. Judy Warren Retired NonVoting
Ms. Ania Wieckowski Harvard Business Review Press NonVoting
Mr. John T. Williams Stern Shapiro Weissberg & Garin LLP NonVoting
Ms. Michelle Wu Boston City Council NonVoting

Board Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 0
Caucasian: 0
Hispanic/Latino: 0
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 15
Other (if specified): --
Gender Female: 0
Male: 0
Not Specified 15

Board Information

Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 2
Board Meeting Attendance % 85%
Written Board Selection Criteria Yes
Written Conflict Of Interest Policy Yes
Percentage of Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage of In-Kind Contributions --
Constituency Includes Client Representation Yes

Standing Committees

  • Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
  • Finance
  • Nominating

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

The Charles River Conservancy has a 15-member Board of Directors and a 34-member Board of Advisors. The Board of Directors has three standing committees (Finance, Development, and Nominating), as well as two project committees (Advocacy and Swimming). While the Board always had members who brought with them a wide set of skills, and who came from various geographic areas along the urban Charles, recent recruitment efforts have resulted in several younger members with more diverse backgrounds and work experience profiles. Members of the Board of Advisors also play a key role in offering guidance across areas of interest for the organization. The CRC continues to seek board members and advisors with expertise in finance, event planning, fundraising, and public relations.

Foundation Comments

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Financials


Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2013 (%)

Prior Three Years Total Revenue and Expense Totals

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Total Revenue $825,840 $2,576,963 $898,492
Total Expenses $591,677 $653,524 $563,671

Prior Three Years Revenue Sources

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
-- -- --
Government Contributions $0 $0 $0
    Federal -- -- --
    State -- -- --
    Local -- -- --
    Unspecified -- -- --
Individual Contributions $392,023 $355,191 $431,334
Indirect Public Support -- -- --
Earned Revenue $73,278 $111,169 $17,930
Investment Income, Net of Losses $6,122 $9,565 $5,189
Membership Dues -- -- --
Special Events -- -- --
Revenue In-Kind $138,913 $347,987 $208,469
Other $215,504 $1,753,051 $235,570

Prior Three Years Expense Allocations

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Program Expense $423,315 $477,571 $373,311
Administration Expense $115,231 $102,586 $102,872
Fundraising Expense $53,131 $73,367 $87,488
Payments to Affiliates -- -- --
Total Revenue/Total Expenses 1.40 3.94 1.59
Program Expense/Total Expenses 72% 73% 66%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue 14% 21% 20%

Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Total Assets $5,694,469 $4,901,810 $2,930,485
Current Assets $1,858,798 $1,560,615 $1,511,215
Long-Term Liabilities $0 $0 $0
Current Liabilities $635,326 $76,830 $28,944
Total Net Assets $5,059,143 $4,824,980 $2,901,541

Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
1st (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
2nd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
3rd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --

Financial Planning

Endowment Value --
Spending Policy --
Percentage(If selected) --
Credit Line Yes
Reserve Fund Yes
How many months does reserve cover? 6.00

Capital Campaign

Are you currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Capital Campaign Purpose --
Campaign Goal --
Capital Campaign Dates -
Capital Campaign Raised-to-Date Amount --
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? Yes

Short Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities 2.93 20.31 52.21

Long Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Long-term Liabilities/Total Assets 0% 0% 0%

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

 

The CRC was engaged in a capital campaign and construction project for the Lynch Family Skatepark during the previous 11 fiscal years (2004-2015). The skatepark was completed and gifted to the state at the beginning of our 2016 fiscal year. Our 2016 fiscal year projections for income and revenue do not include the completion and gift of this project.

The CRC started in 2000 with a big vision and no money. The founder was able to donate her time, to provide space in her house, recruit volunteers and gain early support from foundations. By carefully managing its expenditures, the CRC has always operated in the black and has grown gradually. Single-year grants, however, have made it difficult to budget and plan for future years but we’ve done our best to grow year to year. With the help of the Boston Foundation, the Conservancy was able to set up a Parklands Stewardship Fund that allows donors to contribute to a fund that functions like a very small endowment. In 2007, the CRC was the grateful recipient of a $75,000 “out of the blue” grant from the Boston Foundation. The CRC also receives extensive pro-bono services for legal advice; for example, Wilmer Hale donated over $1 million in legal help for the skatepark.

With an exciting vision, a talented team, loyal donors, well established stakeholder relationships and a good track record, the Conservancy is ready for growth.

Foundation Comments

Financial summary data in the charts and graphs above is per the nonprofit's audited financials.  Contributions from foundations and corporations are listed under individuals when the breakout was not available. Please note, the amount in Other for fiscal year 2013 & 2014 includes capital grants.

Documents


Other Documents

No Other Documents currently available.

Impact

The Impact tab is a section on the Giving Common added in October 2013; as such the majority of nonprofits have not yet had the chance to complete this voluntary section. The purpose of the Impact section is to ask five deceptively simple questions that require reflection and promote communication about what really matters – results. The goal is to encourage strategic thinking about how a nonprofit will achieve its goals. The following Impact questions are being completed by nonprofits slowly, thoughtfully and at the right time for their respective organizations to ensure the most accurate information possible.


1. What is your organization aiming to accomplish?

The Charles River Conservancy (CRC) is dedicated to the stewardship, renewal, and enhancement of the urban parklands along the Charles River, working to make this extraordinary public resource more active, attractive and accessible for all.

Used by more than one million visitors annually, the Charles River is a prized public amenity. Yet in tough economic times funding for this and other state parks is often cut at the same time that usage dramatically increases as people search for low-cost activities.

The “ribbon of green and blue” of the urban river and its parklands give residents and visitors alike an enduring sense of place and a refuge for recreation, contemplation, and renewal. The Charles River Reservation’s Lower Basin includes 20 miles of shoreline, from the new harbor locks in Boston to the Watertown Dam, and more than 30 parks and green spaces along the way.

The staff and volunteers of this small but effective public-interest organization work together towards this shared vision of renewing our urban river parklands, which we believe have the potential to be world-class parks. Building on the legacy of landscape architect and visionary Charles Eliot, the CRC focuses on providing what Eliot called a, “democratic common ground for the enjoyment of all.” 

Ultimately, the Charles River Conservancy wants to see the 20 miles of urban river parklands protected, both in terms of public access and opportunity as well as ecologically. This linear park from downtown Boston to the Watertown Dam includes historic and cultural landmarks, yet faces modern challenges from the urban communities and campuses abutting it. Heavy use by residents and visitors and a lack of overarching vision (piecemeal projects abound, but there are few comprehensive plans) have left many parts of the Basin resembling the much loved and well-worn Velveteen Rabbit. The Conservancy hopes to work with agencies and disparate user groups to provide improvements and to foster a shared vision for the Charles River parklands. 

We want access along and across the river. 

We want recreational amenities up and down the river's parks - both passive and structured.  

We want the public to be attracted to these "common democratic grounds" that belong to them and for which they should feel a sense of ownership.

We want the public to find great community building events - whether artistic, patriotic, recreational or all of the above - in the riverside parklands.

We define our success by the number of volunteer events held, advocates created (counted through engagement with our programs and projects), and positive public response to our work (whether in the media or through letters of support). As avid users of the parks, we also routinely check-in on our success as we use, enjoy, and commute through the parks. 

We hope you'll join us and support our work for more active, attractive and accessible Charles River Parklands!


2. What are your strategies for making this happen?

At a recent milestone event for the Charles River Conservancy, Congressman Michael Capuano told the crowd gathered, "I'm about to lay on you my highest accolade for a person who's an advocate of any kind. [CRC Founder and President] Renata is a huge pain in the ...."
 
The Congressman went on to say, "And I say that with incredible respect because that's what it takes." While tenacity is not the Conservancy's only strategy, it reflects our diligence and commitment to the work we do for the Charles River parklands.
 
The CRC's steadfast advocacy is backed by strategic and thoughtful communications and relationships.  
 
Our communications strategy uses both digital and traditional media platforms. The CRC engages supporters and constituents monthly through our general interests e-newsletter, as well as specific interest group digital update e-blasts, social media, public meetings, and press releases.
 
We maintain relationships with our local and state elected officials, executive administrations, and the agencies charged with stewarding these properties.  Through our partnerships with like-minded organizations we host regular project/program updates, parkland development conversations, and coordinated campaigns to advance our issues.
 
Some examples of this are:
 
The Lynch Family Skatepark remediated a state-owned brownfield and provides new recreational opportunities along the river. Completion of this capital project has made the parklands more active, attractive, and accessible for wheel-based athletes.
 
Underpasses and Pathway Advocacy continue our work to provide un-interrupted passage through the parklands. The success of the underpass approved by MassDOT for the Anderson Memorial Bridge serves as a building block in our long-term work to make the parklands more accessible.
 
The Conservancy Volunteers program works in the parklands with some 2,000 landscape volunteers each year.  These volunteers ensure the ecological health of the river, as well as the integrity and beauty of the parklands for residents and visitors alike.
 
Each project is a step in our programmatic work to improve the Charles River Parklands.  

3. What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?

The Charles River Conservancy is uniquely positioned as the only non-profit that seeks to improve the Charles River parklands as a whole. While other organizations work to improve one area of the Basin or focus on the health of the water itself, the Conservancy's vision is broader. Our founder's vision and experience positioned the Conservancy to look at the complete picture -- just as Charles Eliot did in the nineteenth century when he designed what would become the central space of the Metropolitan Parks Commission. 
 
As an organization we are lean and limber, able to move swiftly if an area of advocacy needs unexpected attention due to a shifting political or community landscape. Through 15 years of successful work, we have earned the trust of civic-minded donors seeking an organization to invest in.
 
Our talented staff hold a variety of degrees and experiences from environmentally focused studies to architect to years spent in Massachusetts political circles. Add to this internal asset, the well-cultivated resource of the Conservancy's Board members and Advisory Board members and you'll find a well-rounded network strengthening the Conservancy's capabilities.  

4. How will your organization know if you are making progress?

Each year, we measure success by the amount of debris collected from the parklands, the progress of our advocacy targets, and the growth of our volunteering and swimming programs.  Each of our initiatives and programs has a staff member to manage and track progress, as well as thorough oversight from the Conservancy's Board and Advisory Board committed to excellence in Conservancy programs.

5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

The Charles River Conservancy strives to make the Charles River parklands more active, attractive and accessible. CRC takes on challenges it believes will improve the river and its parklands for all of us. These recent years have been no exception: 
 
• Advocacy: In 2014, the campaign for MassDOT to build underpasses into its bridge rehabilitation plans took a major leap forward. In early fall, we received word that MassDOT had given the go-ahead for an underpass for the Anderson Bridge to be designed—and expressed additional support for underpasses at the River St. and Western Ave. bridges. This progress was a monumental step forward after 5+ years of advocacy work. The CRC enlisted 38 elected officials, 53 organizations and several thousand walkers, runners and bicyclists to lend their support to this effort. 
 
• The Lynch Family Skatepark: On November 14, 2015, under the ramps of I-93 and the Zakim Bridge, the CRC celebrated the opening of the skatepark, representing the culmination of over a decade of environmental challenges, complicated multi-agency negotiations, designing, fundraising, and permitting towards a world-class skatepark on the river. The skatepark provides skaters and skateboarders the first public professionally designed, accessible space in which to safely and legally hone their skills. The skatepark also caps a brownfield, remediating and improving the health of the land along the Charles in North Point Park, a former industrial waste yard. In addition to a $1.5M gift for construction, the Conservancy also secured a 7-year commitment from Vans® to provide financial support to MassDCR for the ongoing maintenance and operation of the skatepark. 
 
• Swimmable Charles: Continuing the success of 2013’s first community swim in the Charles River in over 50 years, the Conservancy brought the public back into their river in 2014 and 2015. The Swimmable Charles Initiative began over a decade ago and now boasts over 1,000 swimmers jumping into the waters of the Charles with us. Public swimming in the Charles River has been banned for over 50 years due to pollutants; however after extensive cleanup efforts, the river is again swimmable the majority of the summer. 
 
• Conservancy Volunteers: We have maintained our strong volunteer presence on the banks of the Charles, with some 2,000 volunteers cleaning, painting, and pruning throughout the year. Through these events we have engaged students from elementary age through college, community members, and employees of corporate supporters in the health and vitality of the Charles River parklands.