Boston’s Sapphire Necklace

Oy, it’s dry out there, the August 5 temporary tempest notwithstanding. It’s a good time of year to head for the ocean. While the Ipswich River may run dry from suburban lawn-watering, we have yet to find a way to deplete the Boston Harbor. Harborwalk, Boston’s Sapphire Necklace of parks, walkways, historical markers and observation points, has plenty of water views and occasional child-moistening devices.

My favorite view is Piers Park in East Boston, a long promenade improbably located on top of a 600-foot-long pier. I enjoy the intriguing public art reflecting East Boston’s many cultures and Donald Kay’s ship-building; my children enjoy getting wet at the spray fountain on the playground. Christopher Columbus Park also produces soggy children alongside a view of harbor boats.

My favorite Harborwalk site isn’t quite on the Harbor: Pope John Paul II park in Dorchester. When the Metropolitan District Commission (now part of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation! How fast bureacracies fly.) bought the site in the 1970’s, it was a landfill, a drive-in movie theater, and a lumber yard. Today, the site is capped with new soil, and the ugly oozing shores have been transformed into a salt marsh. Great blue herons drift through the air and land in the shoreline grasses to hunt. If you’re not a salt marsh fish, the place can be brutal on hot days– there are few trees, for fear that the roots would pull something nasty out from under the cap– but if you *are* a mummichog or spined stickleback, it is paradise.

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