About The Boston Harbor Association
The Boston Harbor Association (TBHA) is the leading harbor advocacy group working to promote a clean, alive, and accessible Boston Harbor. Founded in 1973 by the League of Women Voters and the Boston Shipping Association, TBHA prides itself in its creative and innovative programs to help educate the public and build a consensus for a clean and alive Harbor. The Boston Harbor Association is making a difference today and for future generations with solutions and programs that promote maritime industrial activities, environmental protection, and public access around Boston Harbor.
In 1984, the City of Boston, at the suggestion of the Harbor Park Advisory Committee (of which The Boston Harbor Association was an active member), established "HarborWalk" guidelines to encourage development of public walkways and public access along Boston Harbor. The Boston Harbor Association continues to work closely with the City of Boston's Environmental Department, Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and waterfront property owners to ensure completion of the 46.9-mile HarborWalk. Currently, the HarborWalk is about 80% complete. Special thanks to the Boston Redevelopment Authority for continuing to fund this website.
TBHA HarborWalk Programs
HarborWalk Interpretive Signage Inventory
TBHA is compiling a comprehensive photographic inventory of existing interpretive signage along the entirety of Boston's waterfront. Participants in TBHA's HarborWalk tours and Harbor education programs have consistently recommended that interpretive signage be developed to inform the public about significant locations along Boston's waterfront. This initiative will provide an important starting point from which TBHA, in coordination with the Boston Redevelopment Authority and other interested parties, can begin to examine the types of signage which work best along Boston Harbor and to explore options for the development of a city-wide program for interpretive signage.
Through its detailed comment letters and as a member of the Boston Conservation Commission, The Boston Harbor Association is the key advocacy organization working to complete the entire Boston HarborWalk system within 7 years. For detailed information about new and upcoming additions and improvements to the Harborwalk, see the "What's New" section of this webpage.
Participate in one of The Boston Harbor Association's free HarborWalk tours. Enjoy the exercise and scenic views while learning about recent changes and improvements to Boston's HarborWalk, view public art, and make recommendations on how public access can be improved. Your comments, observations, and suggestions will be incorporated into TBHA's ongoing efforts to make the HarborWalk an inviting and enjoyable destination for all. Both residents and visitors are encouraged to attend. For more information, please visit the Events pages at The Boston Harbor Association or Boston HarborWalk websites. To make a reservation, please contact The Boston Harbor Association at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-482-1722.
Enjoy Boston's HarborWalk as never before with free podcast-style audio tours. Two tours are now available. The Downtown audio tour takes visitors from Christopher Columbus Park at the North End, along the downtown waterfront, to the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse at South Boston's Fan Pier. The audio tour of the Fort Point Channel begins at the InterContinental Hotel and provides an insider's view of one of Boston's most exciting neighborhoods. Click Boston HarborWalk Audio Tour to download the audio tours on your MP3 player. Special thanks to Mayor Menino and the Boston Redevelopment Authority for supporting the audio tour.
Naturally Boston Harbor Brochure
Download Naturally Boston Harbor for self-guided tours along the Boston Harbor. Naturally Boston Harbor describes flourishing plant and animal life and provides historical background, suggestions for activities, and direction to 16 Harbor locations in and around Boston's Harbor. Naturally Boston Harbor is produced in both English and Spanish.
Grading the HarborWalk: "State of the HarborWalk: A Progress Report"
The Boston Harbor Association (TBHA) is the leading harbor advocacy group working to promote a clean, alive, and accessible Boston Harbor. In 1984, as a member of the City of Boston's Harborpark Advisory Committee, TBHA successfully advocated for the establishment of "HarborWalk" guidelines to encourage the development of public walkways, parks, sitting areas, cafes, public art, and other public amenities along Boston Harbor.
Purpose of the Report
The "State of the HarborWalk: A Progress Report" is an assessment of the amenities of the existing HarborWalk segments and identifies those missing links needed to fully complete Boston's HarborWalk. During the fall and winter of 2004 and the spring of 2005, a team of three second-year students studying for their Masters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Urban Studies and Planning walked the entire length of the HarborWalk. At existing sites, the team evaluated accessibility, condition, use and safety of the HarborWalk and its public amenities. In the report, the team identified exemplary HarborWalk segments, provided suggestions for those sites needing improvements to encourage the upkeep and accessibility of the HarborWalk, and suggested steps to get missing links added to the HarborWalk system.
As of 2005, the HarborWalk is approximately 75% complete and offers many amenities. All portions of the HarborWalk offer a generally good walking surface and provide amenities such as benches, trash barrels, lighting, and landscaping. In addition, many HarborWalk segments also offer other amenities, such as access to playground facilities, playing fields, free binoculars, swimming, fishing, boating, restaurants, public restrooms, drinking water, public telephones, shelter, exhibits and/or interpretative signage, and/or public art. The HarborWalk is used year-round, with greatest use during the warmer months. HarborWalk segments located in residential neighborhoods tend to be used more frequently by local residents; whereas, the HarborWalk in the downtown area is used more often by tourists and office workers. Three overarching observations emerged from the evaluation of the HarborWalk:
First, there is a need for clear, obvious signage to make the public aware of the available public access. Many of the sites had no HarborWalk signs at all. At the sites that did have signs, they were either too few or placed in a way that did not provide context or direction for visitors. In addition, there was no signage to direct visitors to the HarborWalk.
The second major observation is the need for continued maintenance of existing HarborWalk sites. While many of the privately owned sites were well maintained, many of the publicly owned sites needed more attention, such as trash pick-up and bench and walkway repair.
The third observation is the feeling of trespassing on private property on segments of the HarborWalk constructed and maintained by private developers. Because many HarborWalk segments are in front of high-end private condominium complexes, many owners of these sites (but not all) have used gates, security personnel, private property signs, and surface changes to project the feeling of private property and to discourage the public's right to access the waterfront.
Recommendations of the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning Students
The Boston Redevelopment Authority's signage program is an important component of the HarborWalk. The signage program is a graphic system developed to direct people to and along the HarborWalk and to nearby amenities, such as water transit stops or public restrooms, to parks and open spaces, to cultural venues, and to historic districts. The HarborWalk signage could be greatly improved through a more coordinated and consistent strategy for the placement of signs throughout the HarborWalk system. Signage is lacking in many places and on those sites where it does exist, it is not always placed effectively.
HarborWalk signage should be developed and placed with certain goals in mind. There should be different types of signs for different contexts, and a consistent design should be applied throughout the HarborWalk.
The types of signage that should be developed are:
Directional: These signs should be placed along the HarborWalk, indicating users' current location and providing notice of what other facilities and destinations can be found in various directions. Directional signage should also be used to help visitors access the HarborWalk when not on the Harborwalk per se.
Interpretive: These signs should be placed on the HarborWalk indicating historic facts about the site, or pointing out sites of note along the harbor.
Temporary: Where HarborWalk is missing, or where there is a break in the pathway, there should be signs directing the public on the route to take in order to pick up the next section.
Situational: A map showing all the segments of the HarborWalk should be placed at key locations on the HarborWalk. A "You are here" would help the visitor know where they are on the HarborWalk while at the same time show HarborWalk linkages to the neighborhoods around Boston Harbor.
While many segments of the HarborWalk are compliant with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), some older segments are not. Every effort should be made to bring existing segments of the HarborWalk in compliance with ADA (e.g., surface treatment, ramps, accessible binoculars, restrooms, benches); new segments should be constructed to provide amenities that comply with the ADA requirements.
Although many of the sites visited during this evaluation of the HarborWalk were well maintained, there were several sites that required attention that is more regular. Based on our observations, the privately owned HarborWalk segments were well maintained whereas the publicly owned HarborWalk segments required more attention. To ensure adequate maintenance, stewards of the HarborWalk segments should provide the following:
- Regular trash pick-up
- Attention to broken benches
- Attention to cracked pavement
- Replacement of vandalized signs and monuments
- Repair of public phones and binoculars
- Replacement of broken lights
Many of the privately owned or maintained HarborWalk segments are located in front of high-end private condominium developments. Owners of some of these sites (but not all) have installed gates, guards, private property signs, and surface changes to project the feeling of private property and impede the public's right to access the waterfront. The HarborWalk is meant to activate the waterfront by providing access and amenities to the public under the state's Chapter 91 program. In order to achieve these goals, we recommend the following:
- Increased HarborWalk signage, including wayfinding types such as a blue line painted on the ground
- Removal of private property signs placed near the HarborWalk
- Removal of gates that prevent 24 hr access to the HarborWalk from the street or from other sections.
In order to increase the HarborWalk's visibility in the City, several activities can be launched to allow city residents as well as visitors to discover Boston's HarborWalk and the many amenities along the waterfront. Some of the ideas can include:
- Dedicated volunteers that could be called "harborwatchers" - basically stewards of certain sections - the "eyes & ears" of the HarborWalk. The harborwatchers would report to the BRA or directly to property owners to notify them of problems on the HarborWalk (e.g., trash barrels overflowing, broken benches, burnt out lighting fixtures).
- Yearly citywide HarborWalk day - "Come to the Water's Edge" or some other attention getting publicity. Could be part of a health/fitness program to encourage walking and running. Could be an event day, where various activities happen at sites around the city along the HarborWalk - free tours, street performers, food vendors, wildlife walks, or scavenger hunt.
- Make Boston's HarborWalk more visible in tourist materials - maps, websites, and hotel lobbies.
- Identify and publicize the public art that are prominently displayed on the HarborWalk. The HarborWalk signage could be used to identify HarborWalk segments that display works of art.
- Increase the coordination among the various stakeholders (e.g., public agencies, developers, advocates, property owners) to increase the HarborWalk's visibility and use to be enjoyed by the public and encourage government entities that own property to provide public access to the waterfront.
- Promote the HarborWalk website by placing the website address on HarborWalk signage and other interpretive markers.