Harborwalk a Cost-free Way to Enjoy Changing Coastline

Two men enjoy a lunch break on the Harborwalk. (Photo by Baylee Wright)

By Baylee Wright

The Boston Harbor was once a disgusting, unhealthy area; a drag on the Hub, but in the year of 2014, our harbor is among the cleanest in the country. This was not an easy task; it took many decades and over $4 billion, but today we can appreciate the work put into the cleaning of the harbor by strolling along the 47 mile Harborwalk, which is about 84% done since the project first began in 1984.

The Boston Harbor Association in partnership with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the city are able to maintain a beautiful trail of waterfront parks that consist of tables, chairs, disability accessible pathways and more, which make up the Harborwalk that stretches across the harbor’s six waterfront communities.

The best part of Harborwalk according to visitors: it is completely free.

“Everyone should be able to enjoy it,” said Vivien Li, the president of the Boston Harbor Association.

Harborwalk is maintained by the business and development that lies on the waterfront. They are guided by the association to maintain a 12 feet wide walkway with public amenities, most popular being public art or interpretive signage.

To ensure that the Harborwalk stays in mint-condition, the association frequently makes sure that the developers who are in charge of a section of the walk are frequent in their attempts to keep their walkways up-to-par.

“We are the noisy ones,” said Li.

Harborwalk has transformed the harbor to show its improvements, while emphasizing the beauty of the ocean. Since its beginning, this project has brought in details to enhance the Boston skyline; showcasing 3 decades of buildings and culture.

The John Joseph Moakley States Courthouse, equipped with 2.5 acres of Harborwalk, is one of the more intricate additions to the skyline. To Li, this section of the Walk is the quiet part, a great place to read a book or bring a date. Walking through this quaint garden and walking area, you will see iron silhouettes of clipper ships, which to the courts was an “educational opportunity” said Li.

Also featured here is a garden by Carol R. Johnson & Associates which is equipped with plant life that can withstand the salty ocean air: a great fit for a harbor side garden.

As you make your way over to the Fan Pier section of the Harborwalk, the sense of innovation in the attempt to aim at the younger generations is shown in the architecture and style. High-scale restaurants and stores line this section of the coast alongside new buildings like the Institute of Contemporary Art and Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which are fairly new buildings bringing added character to the improving waterfront.

To make sure the Harborwalk maintains its goal of drawing people to the water, the association alongside Mayor Menino and others have worked to make sure that everybody can find something to enjoy on the waterfront.

“We are trying to be sure it pertains to people of low income,” says Li.

It is very important that the developing harbor is able to attract a variety of visitors, as it is doing so far. To do so, the Harborwalk will continue its goal of promoting a clean and free way to enjoy the views along the walk.

“We will ensure the public has access to enjoy a clean harbor,” Li added.

As summer creeps upon the city, you will find more people using the walk. From tourists and city workers to families and students, the hangouts along the Harborwalk are becoming packed, and the reaction is positive.

“The waterfront used to be dark and dreary,” says Ailene Rodrigues, who has been familiar with Boston for many years. “Now I am able to move about more areas, it’s definitely an improvement,” she added.

Similarly, a couple from Danvers, MA enjoys a walk along Long Wharf.

“The waterfront has become a combination of new and old Boston” wife Lisa Newton said. “It’s beautiful.”

When you drive through the city on any given day within the last 30 years or so, it is almost impossible to not see a crane mingled in with the sky line; indicating the vast improvements that are happening.

With all the movement occurring around the city, Li makes sure to emphasize the safety around the waterfront, “There is almost no crime happening along the walk,” she said.

In order to ensure a clean city, there are many steps being taken along projects including the Harborwalk and the Greenway, like adding more trash cans and employing people to pick up trash, the outcome is looking good.

For Li and the association, conserving the identity of Boston is hard when innovative technology and futuristic architecture is transforming city life. Harborwalk works to appreciate the old and emphasize the new.

“It’s hard,” said Li. “Developers can do what they want,” she continues “you just try the best that you can,” she said.

Luckily, our city is rich of history with the Freedom Trail, the North End, the Boston Common and so on. For sections of the city, like the waterfront, to assimilate with the millennial trends is a great addition to the city’s profile, as many daily visitors along the harbor would point out.


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