Boston’s harbor and skyline. Photos: Bianca Plamarini

By Kiran Jagtiani and Bianca Palmarini

One of the most unique aspects of the City of Boston is its abundance of waterways. However, “It stopped being a great coastal city around the turn of the last century, when we were outcompeted by New York and New Jersey as the East Coast major port,” according to Kathy Abbott, the Chief Executive Officer of Boston Harbor Now.

Created April 1, 2016, by merging the Boston Harbor Association and the Boston Harbor Island Alliance, Boston Harbor Now is intended to “connect all of the waterfront with the harbor itself and the islands,” according to Abbott.

Though the organization was originally created to maintain the newly cleaned harbor area, it is also well known for hosting several low-cost events for everyone to enjoy.

“We do a lot of recreational and fitness events,” said Rebecca Smerling, the director of Programs of the Boston Harbor Now organization. Some of them include yoga and fitness classes, hiking with rangers, tai chi and regatta in the summer, according to Smerling.

Luckily for the organization, other entities share the same vision, that the harbor can become central to the City of Boston.

“Most [of our funding] is fundraised, and that [money] comes from individuals, corporate foundations. There’s a little bit of government money in there, and there is some earned revenue,” according to Abbott.

Not only is it funded by other organizations, but they partner with 167 non-profit groups (i.e. Boys and Girls Club, YMCA) from all over the region, including from New Hampshire and Providence, according to Christian Merfeld, the director of communications.

While it is in great condition now, the entire organization agrees that the harbor wasn’t nearly as attractive about a century ago.

“We polluted it beyond utilization in the early 1900s,” Abbott said. “In the next one hundred years, we [Boston] were really no longer a major port, and we had trashed the waters so that people were not drawn to want to live or work or play near it.”

Though it has come a long way from extremely polluted waters in the early 1900s, the organization believes there is still a lot of work to be done.

“We believe that it [the Boston Harbor] is one of the most underappreciated and underutilized assets in the region,” according to Abbott.

In addition to cleaning up the area and hosting low-cost events for the community, Boston Harbor Now is also determined to promote transportation through water. According to Abbott, Smerling and Merfeld, there is far too much traffic in Boston, which could be cut down by adding ferries as a new form of transportation, a method that has proven effectively in other cities across the country.

“Mayor DeBlasio just invested one billion dollars in increasing their [New York City’s] water transportation, and San Francisco is investing $550 million in theirs,” said Abbott. “We’re doing a study now, that we hope will result in an increase in investment here.”

Abbott and the rest of the organization are confident that if the study is completed properly, they will be able to compare with larger cities, bringing Boston back into the spotlight.

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