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!|