In most years, April for Boston Harbor Now is a month of intensive final planning for Free Ferry Day to officially kick off the Boston Harbor Islands season in early May. This year, we were wracked with difficult questions:
Would the islands be open? Would it be responsible to encourage people to visit the Islands? Would people even want to?
As we discussed with our colleagues and community partners, we began hearing the same refrain: now, more than ever, we need access to the Islands – for mental health, to connect with nature, to provide a safe, socially-distant activity for cooped-up kids.
And now, with the end of the Islands season upon us, the numbers speak for themselves. Even with more limited ferry service, accessible only to one island on a reduced schedule, more than 17,500 people visited Spectacle Island over the course of the summer. Boston Harbor Now was proud to bring 3500 people from specific communities such as Roxbury and Chinatown as well as non profit partners including the Boston Boys and Girls Clubs, Pine Street Inn, The Dimock Center at BIDMC, and more. through a creative revamp of our popular “Community Cruises.” and public access program. More than 300 people took advantage of half price Fridays, made possible through the support of the Highland Street Foundation.
I visited Spectacle when it opened in July this summer and was pleased to see a great mix of socially distanced masked people on the ferries Once on the island it was business as usual with a reduced number of people on the trails, at the lookouts and on the beach. People were having fun and enjoying each other in this beautiful place with gorgeous views back to Boston.
In this challenging time, our harbor is contributing to Boston’s health and wellbeing in ways I could have never expected when I came onboard as the leader of Boston Harbor Now in 2014. During these past few months, our harbor and islands have been an oasis – open spaces where people can recreate, exercise, or relax near calming waters and at a safe distance from others.
Just imagine if our region’s largest blue and green public open space was still one of the most polluted harbors in the country at this time when we need it more than ever?
But thanks to the Boston Harbor cleanup – one of our region’s greatest environmental success stories – we now have a beautifully clean and environmentally healthy harbor that belongs to all of us. And as we face new challenges due to climate change, rising seas and increasing inequality, I am confident we can use this time to once again come together to create an even more vibrant and welcoming harbor that benefits everyone.
– Kathy Abbott