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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Good Timing


I didn’t even realize it was Earth Day weekend when I decided to take a field trip into the city on Friday.  But I needed some information on the Boston Harbor Islands for the piece I’m writing and the seasonal ferries to the islands don’t start until one day after my deadline.  So I hopped on a commuter boat to the city, knowing I’d get an amazing view of the Boston Harbor Islands National Park area.  Once my boat docked in Boston, it was a short walk to a kiosk manned by a National Park ranger.  There I could get some information to round off the piece that is mostly written.  After that I’d head over to the outdoor market at Haymarket, pick up some affordable produce, grab lunch and head home.  Easy peasy.  And it was.  I didn’t expect that it would be so, well—remarkable.

Let me back track a little.  I grew up going into the city from the western suburbs.  We took public transportation and landed in a grimy metropolis.   I worked in Boston for several years, and let me tell you, Boston Harbor was about as polluted as it gets.  It was a pretty view, but you sure wouldn’t touch the water.  A long time ago, my now husband and I went boating in the harbor with friends.  I don’t want to horrify you by telling you what we saw floating that afternoon— I’ll just tell you it used to be alive. 

Fast forward a few years.  My husband and I chose to live on the South Shore, which offered the fun and convenience of taking a ferry ride into Boston.  But all those raggedy looking islands we passed along the way? Well, one housed a prison, another a homeless shelter and one was a garbage dump.  I ignored them.  

Thankfully, others did not.  Over the last twenty years, folks from all different venues have been planning and implementing a cleanup.  One of the largest sewage treatment systems in the country was built where the prison used to be, the harbor is now mostly swim-able clean.  The 32 harbor islands, which were either decaying military installations or receptacles for that which was not wanted by the city of Boston, are now being turned into places of recreational, natural and historical beauty.  In the back of my head, I knew all this was going on of course.  But now, I’m writing about it…and paying a heck of a lot more attention. 

As the ferry churned along, we passed Peddock’s Island, which used to house Fort Andrew, built in the early 1900’s and abandoned by the military after WWII,  which is currently in the process of a major reclamation.  (Parts of the film Shutter Island with Leonardi DiCaprio, was filmed there.)  Spectacle Island, which hosted a rendering plant and a dump, has been capped off, cleaned up, replanted.  Folks who visit can utilize a beautiful visitor center in addition to a lifeguard staffed beach.  Yep, people go there to SWIM.

Oh there is so much more to tell you, but I’ll wait until the article comes out.  All I really want to say is that the day before Earth Day weekend, and I saw firsthand the value of caring for our earth.  

Oh what we can do when we put our minds to it.

Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor...it used to be a dump!

13 comments:

Jennifer Shirk said...

That's wonderful that they were able to clean up that area!

Old Kitty said...

Oh wow. What a brilliant brilliant brilliant project - hooorah to the good people of Boston Harbor for waking up and smelling the erm... pollution and sewage and then doing something amazing about it! I think Mother Earth puts up a lot from us - but when we help her - she just bounces right back! Take care
x

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I know exactly what you mean. We grew up in Baltimore, and when we moved away in 1971, the harbor was polluted and smelly, and the area around it was unsafe, and filled with drunks, derelicts, hookers, and rats. Now, it's a regular jewel in the city's crown. Gorgeous. Pristine. And an enormous draw for tourists. The first time we went back up to visit after the Inner Harbor project was completed, we were utterly amazed to see all the tour buses in an area that was once so economically depressed. Sounds like Boston has enjoyed the very same kind of renewal.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's a wonderful thing to do. Just think of the wildlife that would come back to those islands that used to be dumps or nothing but refuse.

simonclarter.com said...

I'm constantly amazed at how nature will reclaim the crappiest of locales if we give it a chance. I once worked on a multi-million dollar condo building on the Hudson that had at one point been a tipping floor for a garbage processing facility. Yeah. Now it's at the center of Piermont, NY's revitalization. Go figure.

missing moments said...

I love hearing about efforts to improve and save our beautiful planet. Hope you tell us when your article comes out so we can read!

Kittie Howard said...

Great post, Liza. You've really got me intrigued. We're going to the NYC area for a wedding in early Sept. If we can swing it, a quick side trip might happen.

Yes, the weather in Louisiana is similar, but Vietnam is more humid. I rather like the humidity, actually, but I think a person not born into a humid climate might have problems there (and in Louisiana).

I'm a big environmentalist, took a lot of hits for being a 'screaming liberal hugging trees' but didn't care. It's great that Boston is doing so much. Except for NO, Louisiana is a red, red meat state with many afraid of the disappearing coastline but even more fearful of coming across as liberal. Actually, I don't think Mother Nature gives two frog hairs about politics. She's on a tear.

mshatch said...

That is so cool you can take a ferry into the city! I grew up in Norwell and then the Cape so am somewhat familiar with the area but I never knew about a ferry. Boston is a fun city.

Robyn Campbell said...

Yay that they decided to clean it up, Liza. It will be a wildlife bonanza! I hope you tell us when we can read your article. I know it will be wonderful. :-) (((hugs)))

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

It warms my heart to hear of landscapes improving instead of getting worse. This is a wonderful story.

Lynda R Young said...

I hope more of this kind of work happens across the globe.

Carol Kilgore said...

I'm glad we've finally realized that caring for the earth is our responsibility.

Jan Morrison said...

Liza - what a wonderful story! I hope you give us a link or copy the one you're working on too. I live twenty minutes out of Halifax, Nova Scotia on Prospect Bay. They've been reclaiming the Halifax Harbour for a good number of years - not sure if it is swimable yet but well on its way. The weird thing is that I've been here for ten years and it took me until two years ago to realize I could walk down the road (two city blocks) to the rock beach and swim in our bay. For some reason I'd been holding it in my mind that it was dirty like the city harbour - only we've never dumped our sewage into it - being 'in the country' it has always been septic fields and so forth. Perfectly clean!
Thank you so much for being such a great visitor to my A to Zed challenge - I love that you and Margot come by every day. It has been too crazy a month for me to do anything but meet the challenge - I plan on a nice slow May where I get around to seeing all my friends and commenting!