Today marked an exciting–and very important–landmark in the development of the Boston Harbor Islands national park area with the unveiling of a new welcome center on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The grand opening was marked by a ceremony that included remarks by Mayor Menino and Vicki Kennedy.
My first impression is that the Island Alliance, National Park Service, and all involved in the painstaking project did a tremendous job. The pavilion was much larger than I expected. It features self-serve kiosks where you can buy ferry tickets to the islands and large panels that profile the eight islands served by public ferries. The panels give brief rundowns on the islands’ historical and recreational offerings on one side, and on the other they feature beautiful photography. Look down and you’ll literally find yourself wandering the islands on a 2,000-square-foot topographical map of the park inlaid in granite. Rangers will be on hand during extended business hours to answer any questions.
Lovers of the islands already know what they have to offer, but for most visitors to the city–and probably the majority of its residents as well–the islands have been “out of sight, out of mind.” Since this pavilion is in a very high traffic area between Quincy Market, the Marriott Long Wharf, and the New England Aquarium, it’s going to catch the eye of thousands of people every day. No doubt the visibility of the Boston Harbor Islands national park area is going to get a big boost.
The pavilion is the first building to open on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. While you can’t see any of the islands directly from the pavilion since it’s a few hundred yards from the water, the Greenway is still a fitting location. The Greenway has reconnected downtown with its historic waterfront, and the pavilion will serve to further the connection between Boston and the harbor that gave birth to this city. Plus, the Big Dig project was responsible for the redevelopment of Spectacle Island, as fill from the harbor tunnel was used to resculpt the island into a vast recreational area.
If you swing by the pavilion, be sure to check out the gift shop. They have some pretty cool Civil War memorabilia (Fort Warren on Georges Island is one of New England’s most historic sites connected to the war), postcards, and books on the islands. Not surprisingly, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands at the pavilion.