A New Bloom for Tina O’Connell & Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

More than ten years ago, when I walked down the gravel path into Kenilworth Aquatic Garden as the first paid staff member for Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (FoKAG), I was overcome with a sense of peace and possibility. I was where I belonged. 

You know the feeling: the moment when the daily hustle and bustle get washed away by the sweeping expanse of lotus and water lilies in the ponds and the blue heron flying overhead. 

And so, it is with mixed emotions that I share that I am leaving Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens to pursue my next chapter this Spring. It is time to see what my next bloom – and FoKAG’s next bloom – will bring!

I am so proud of what this organization has become over the last 15 years. FoKAG helps protect and preserve Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens while also fostering meaningful connections with neighbors and visitors. 

Together we have improved the health of the park by pulling thousands of bags of trash and invasive plants from the ponds and wetlands, often getting more muddy and wet than we had since childhood. 

We have advanced equitable access by improving signage to and within the park, repairing trails, and providing a cadre of warm and welcoming park greeters. We have provided safe and inspiring camps for neighborhood children and have come together to enjoy the seasons and each other’s company by doing yoga, art and tai chi. We have enjoyed live music and cultural performances, primarily by artists with ties to the community or the cultural aspects of the lotus. 

I have seen more smiles in the past ten years than I can possibly count.

Our growth over the years is due to the love and care of many, including a diverse team of staff, board members, National Park Service colleagues, partners, neighbors, donors, and friends. I am confident that I am leaving this amazing community in good hands and that the organization is stronger than ever. 

FoKAG has great programs, community support and a bright and dynamic leader in Shannah Cumberbatch, our Program & Volunteer Manager, who has just taken the helm as Interim Executive Director while we search for a new Executive Director. I am grateful that we have a skilled and passionate board with the experience and expertise to make this a smooth transition.

I will miss this work tremendously, but I am also excited to see what the next leader can do. FoKAG is strong, steady and ready to continue making progress in its mission.

Here is the job description for the FoKAG Executive Director position. Please share it widely. Perhaps it’s you? Or someone you know?

Change brings opportunity. I remain invested in the organization’s future and will continue to be involved as a friend, volunteer and donor. 

It has been a wild and wonderful ride! 

In gratitude, 


Tina O’Connell


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