This park system stretches from the Boston Common to Franklin Park. Designed between 1878 and 1895 by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., with Charles Eliot, John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., it is perhaps the first urban greenway in the world.
The core of the 1,100-acre system consists of five parks: the Back Bay Fens, the Muddy River Improvement (later named Olmsted Park and the Riverway), Jamaica Pond, the Arnold Arboretum and West Roxbury Park (now Franklin Park). The parks were linked by parkways resulting in a comprehensive system of water, meadows and woodland measuring five miles in length.
The Olmsted firm consulted on the parks until the 1920s, including collaborations between the Olmsted Brothers and Arthur Shurcliff on the Back Bay Fens. From 1984 to 1991, a joint venture between Walmsley + Company and Pressley Associates (Walmsley/Pressley Joint Venture) produced “The Emerald Parks Master Plan for Back Bay Fens, The Riverway, Olmsted Park and Jamaica Pond.” In 2017, the park section connecting the Riverway and the Fens, which had been made into a parking lot, was returned to parkland as part of a project to restore the Muddy River by Pressley Associates.The park was named for former Parks Commissioner Justine Liff. The Necklace was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Olmsted Park System in 1971, while the Fens and Franklin Park are Boston Landmarks. In 1996 the Emerald Necklace Conservancy was created to protect, restore, maintain and promote the park system.