Friday, August 27, 2010

Explore The Boston Harbor Islands September 13th

Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor
There are 34 islands in Boston harbor, and they are an oasis of natural beauty with rich history. Many are managed by DCR, as well as the National Park Service and several partnership organizations. The islands are well worth exploring and make interesting day trip excursions out of Boston. Some are quite rustic, others moderately developed. Of all the islands, Spectacle Island is the most developed and universally accessible, having undergone a complete transformation (including universal design) after serving as a repository for earth during the massive underground road construction project in Boston known as "the Big Dig". Georges Island has just reopened this year after a major renovation project that includes an accessible visitor center. I was there last year as the renovation was going on, but haven't been back to see it yet this year, so I'm not up to speed yet on the accessibility report.

View of the parade grounds on Georges Island
Georges Island is 39 acres and home to Fort Warren, a national historic landmark that was strategic defense for Boston's seaport from the mid-19th century until the mid-20th century. The military complex was used as a Civil War prison for Confederate soldiers, sailors and political leaders. Its a fascinating place with terrific views and is partially accessible by wheelchair. I really enjoyed touring the island last year. Due to the nature of the defensive structure which has many tiers, portions of it are not accessible to all visitors, however efforts have been made to ramp some entryways to allow wheelchair users into interior spaces, and large parts of the exterior are easily accessible offering many views of the fort. Ranger led programs enhance the educational opportunity if you can take advantage of them.

Ferries run from Long Wharf in Boston, from Quincy and Hull. You can find out more about visiting the islands, including ferry schedules, at You can also read about one wheelchair user's experience there, prior to the recent renovation, at The Traveling Wheelchair.

Ranger giving talk on the wharf at Spectacle Island
The Islands are open until mid-October, and of course anyone can visit at anytime, but if you enjoy guided excursions consider a DCR program. On Monday, September 13, DCR's Universal Access Program and Stavros Outdoor Access are offering a group outing for people with disabilities to Georges Island. The program will make use of all terrain wheelchairs and assistance as needed to allow visitors with disabilities to explore the fort. For further information, contact Brenda Davies at 413-259-0009.

If you do visit, please let us know about your experience! Comments on accessibility are especially welcome!


Meb said...

Great photos Marcy!!

Kenny said...

Hi Marcy,

I've been meaning to get back to Georges Island to see all the new renovations. Thanks for this great blog about the beautiful Boston Harbor Islands!