Easement Protects Thompson Island (MA)

August 12, 2002
Massachusetts

BOSTON, Massachusetts: Through the sale of a conservation restriction, a coalition of nonprofit and government agencies have ensured the permanent protection of Thompson Island, the last privately owned island in Boston Harbor. The 240-acre island, owned and operated by the non-profit Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center, is an environmental treasure, a historically significant site, and a unique resource for Boston's youth. For more than 20 years, it has been one of the area's top conservation priorities, and today's announcement marks the culmination of an intensive seven-year campaign to conserve it permanently.

The conservation restriction was purchased from Thompson Island Outward Bound by the National Park Service and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management for $4 million. The restriction is a legally binding document that prohibits any future development on 80% of Thompson Island—some 195 acres—and limits future development on its existing 45-acre school campus. It also guarantees permanent public access to the island. The Trust for Public Land helped negotiate the terms of the transaction and ensure that it is in the public interest.

"It's a win-win-win situation," said George Armstrong, president of the Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center, which serves approximately 5,000 youth each year through hands-on educational programs designed to help students develop self-confidence, conflict resolution skills, and compassion. "Young people will continue to enjoy and learn in this unique environment; the government agencies have succeeded in conserving an incredible resource; and more visitors will visit our shores." Funds from the sale will be deposited into Thompson Island Outward Bound's endowment, and proceeds will, in turn, support the organization's main programs: character-building expeditions for Boston public school students; summertime expeditions for youth; and an independent middle school for boys.

Two million dollars in state funding was secured through the 1996 Massachusetts Open Space Bond Bill for half the cost of the conservation agreement. The state's congressional delegation, especially Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, Representative William Delahunt, and the late Representative Joseph Moakley, set aside $2 million in the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund for the purchase in 1999.

"This project completes the permanent protection of all of the Boston Harbor Islands," said Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs Robert Durand. "This marks the final puzzle piece needed to ensure the overall conservation of these historic and natural resources."

"With this success, the Boston Harbor Island partners again have shown that -- with creativity and determination -- we can provide recreational and education opportunities while safeguarding our rich cultural and natural resources," said Representative William Delahunt.

DEM Commissioner Peter C. Webber said, "Part of DEM's mission is to provide greater access to coastal lands and today's event will allow the general public to expand its recreational opportunities within the Harbor Islands."

"The permanent conservation of Thompson Island is the crowning achievement in the decades-long effort to clean up the harbor and return it to the people of Boston," said Whitney Hatch, regional director for the Trust for Public Land. "With the area's last privately owned island now protected, the Harbor Islands National Park is complete."

Located off Dorchester Bay, roughly one mile from the John F. Kennedy Library, Thompson Island is the fourth largest island in Boston Harbor. It is the closest major island to the mainland and is also one of the most pristine islands in the harbor. Its varied landscape includes a salt marsh, meadows, beaches, woods and hills, as well as a school campus, a 60-foot climbing tower, challenge courses and athletic fields. The island was first occupied by Native Americans as early as 6-8000 BC. The first colonial settlement was in 1626, when a trader named David Thompson established an outpost for trading with the Neponset Indians. In the 1830s, Boston philanthropists purchased the island for $6,000 and founded a school for orphaned boys. It was the first vocational school in the country, featuring a print shop, a woodworking shop and a farm, and the very first school band in America.

In 1988, Outward Bound, a global educational organization with six other centers in the U.S., assumed operation of Thompson Island and continued its tradition of serving the city's young people. In addition to its main programs, Thompson Island Outward Bound designs customized courses for youth groups and corporate groups, and raises funds for its youth programming by hosting and catering special events on the island. Outward Bound will work with the Boston Harbor Islands Partnership to oversee public access under the terms of the restriction.

Clustered in one of the world's most developed natural ports, Boston's 34 harbor islands, designated a national park area in 1996, provide a unique natural and recreational asset. They were the sites of Native American camps, early European settlements, Revolutionary War skirmishes, Civil War forts and prison compounds, and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an Archeological District because of their important prehistoric remains.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.4 million acres nationwide, including nearly 100,000 acres in New England. The Wall Street Journal's Smart Money Magazine recently named TPL the nation's most efficient large conservation charity for the second year in a row, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs. For more information, visit www.tpl.org.

Visiting Thompson Island

Currently, Thompson Island is open to the public on Saturdays from June through Labor Day. As Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center ramps up public access to comply with the new conservation easement, opportunities for the public to visit the island will expand (see below). Other Harbor Islands are accessible year round. For more information visit www.bostonislands.org.

Guests to Thompson Island are urged to pack food and water (there is no concession stand on the island) and to dress appropriately for the weather. You may want to bring Frisbees, fishing poles, or other recreational equipment.

You can catch the ferry to Thompson Island at 11:30 AM from Fan Pier, located between the Moakley U.S. Courthouse and the Barking Crab restaurant in downtown Boston, or from EDIC public berth #10 in South Boston (see directions below) at 12:00 PM. The ferry leaves Thompson Island at 5:00 PM., getting to EDIC at 5:30 PM and to Fan Pier at 6:00 PM. A ferry also leaves the island at 2:00 PM, but goes to the EDIC dock only. A roundtrip ticket on the ferry costs $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $6 for children ages 4 through 12. There is no charge for children under 4.

Under the terms of the conservation easement purchased jointly by the National Park Service and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management in July of 2002, Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center will be expanding opportunities for the public to visit the island. As a result, ferry service will soon be offered on weekend days throughout the year and on summer holidays such as Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day.

For additional information, contact Deirdra Funcheon at Thompson Island Outward Bound at (617) 328-3900 x115 or via email at dfuncheon@thompsonisland.org.

Directions to the EDIC public birth #10 in South Boston By car:

From south of Boston - Follow I-93 north to exit 15. Take a right at the end of the ramp towards South Boston. Continue straight to the rotary and take the second exit off the rotary onto Day Boulevard. Follow Day Boulevard along the shoreline. At the sixth set of lights (including the first blinking light) take a left onto L Street. Follow L Street through five sets of lights, passing the Boston Edison Power Plant on your right. The road changes to Summer Street. Continue over the bridge, and take the next right onto Drydock Avenue, into the Marine Industrial Park. The Outward Bound ferry departs at the far end of Black Falcon Pier (Dock #10) next to the Summer Street Bridge.

From north of Boston - Take I-93 south to exit 22 (South Station Exit). At the second set of lights, turn left onto Summer Street. AMTRAK train station is on your right. Follow Summer Street for seven sets of lights. Following Summer Street Detour onto Congress Street, pass the Seaport Hotel on your left. At the seventh set of lights, while you are still on Congress Street, do not go straight, take a right onto D Street. At the first set of lights, take a left back onto Summer Street. Take a left at the first set of lights onto Drydock Ave. The Outward Bound ferry departs at the far end of Black Falcon Pier (Dock #10) next to the Summer Street Bridge.

From west of Boston - Take I-90 (The Massachusetts Turnpike) east towards Boston all the way to its end. Stay right towards Downtown/South Boston. At the end of the ramp, take a right onto Kneeland Street and follow signs to South Station. A detour will force you to take a left turn onto South Street. On South Street, get into the right middle lane to take a right at the second set of lights onto Surface Street. (If you are in the far right lane, you will be forced to turn into I-93.) On Surface Street, get in the right lane again to take the first right onto Summer Street. Follow Summer Street for seven sets of lights. Following Summer Street Detour onto Congress Street, pass the Seaport Hotel on your left. At the seventh set of lights, while you are still on Congress Street, do not go straight - take a right onto D Street. At the first set of lights, take a left back onto Summer Street. Take a left at the first set of lights onto Drydock Ave. The Outward Bound ferry departs at the far end of Black Falcon Pier (Dock #10) next to the Summer Street Bridge.

For Passenger Drop off/Pick up: Once on Drydock Avenue, take the second right at the Design Center/Black Falcon Cruise Terminal. Turn right again (look for a sign pointing towards the EDIC Dock) and follow the road straight along the chain link fence. The end of the fence is the best place for drop off and pick up. Passengers should walk left towards the water and look for two pay phones against a fence and a wooden Thompson Island sign. This is the place to wait for the ferry to arrive.

To Park: Once you have turned onto Drydock Avenue, the first right will lead you to the E.D.I.C. Dock. However, you cannot park here. To park, continue straight on Drydock Ave. and take a left into the parking garage (after the First Trade Union Bank). Parking costs about $8 if you leave before 8PM and $20 overnight. Walk past the bank towards Summer Street. Take a left just before the guard shack (across from the Big Dig Diner). Walk straight, past the Boston Line Company, towards the water and look for two pay phones against a fence and a wooden Thompson Island sign. This is the place to wait for the ferry to arrive. Allow extra 10 minutes to walk from the garage to the dock.

By public transportation: Take the Red Line to South Station and exit at Summer Street. From there you can take a cab, take a bus or walk.

By cab: A cab ride will cost you approximately $5 from South Station and will take about 10 minutes depending on traffic.

By Bus: The bus costs 60 cents. The #3, #6, and #7 will bring you close to EDIC Dock. Please call 617-222-3200 for the most current schedules. The bus routes vary depending on the time of day, so be specific about what time you are taking the bus. The #7 Bus will drop you off on Summer Street, across from the Marine Industrial Park entrance. The #3 and #6 will drop you inside the Marine Industrial Park, close to the guard shack. To catch any one of these buses from South Station, stand on Summer Street and look for a cluster of mailboxes near the exit form the South Station building. There should be a bus stop sign there.

By Foot: Walking to the E.D.I.C. Dock takes about 25 minutes from South Station. Walk down Summer Street, away from the city. Follow traffic as it detours onto Congress Street. Stay straight past the Seaport Hotel and take a right onto D Street. Take a left at the first set of lights back onto Summer Street. Take another left at the first set of lights onto Drydock Ave.