When Nancy Brennan became the first executive director of the Greenway Conservancy in 2005, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway was a collection of grassy patches where a highway used to be, a blank canvas in need of a vision. Greenway officials had to abandon some ambitious early plans, including an arts and culture center and an indoor arboretum, but those losses have helped shape what the Greenway has become: an appealing, ground-level urban park, dotted with food trucks and small attractions. Visitors can now enjoy a labyrinth, a guide to the Harbor Islands, and some irresistible fountains. A $2.5 million new Boston-themed carousel is scheduled to open next year.
For all of its advances, though, the Greenway still has yet to reach its full potential. There is little to draw visitors to the park in cold-weather months, the landscaping can be less than inspired, and critics have rapped the conservancy for its high executive salaries and its relative lack of transparency. Now, Brennan’s departure, for a job at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, leaves the conservancy with an opportunity. Brennan’s successor might not need all of her $185,000 salary and bonuses, but he or she will need a few things to help the Greenway fulfill its promise.