The Boston Harbor Islands and I

Hello! This is my very first blog post as a new Designing the Parks intern with the Olmsted Center. I’m a bit late to the blog party (I’m rounding out my 4th week at the OCLP), but I would like to introduce myself and give an overview of what I’ve been working on in the past month. I’m originally from Bowie, Maryland, and recently graduated in June from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia with a BFA in Historic Preservation and Architectural History. After living in the south for 4 years, I’m working on mentally preparing myself for winter in the north. So far it’s going well, but it’s also still September.

Most of what I have been working on is related to the Boston Harbor Islands National & State Park. There are quite a few projects going on with the islands at the moment, including the Cultural Landscape Report (CLR), Cultural Landscape Inventories (CLIs), the 3100 Maintained Landscapes Project, and the Invasive Plant Species Survey. I will discuss my involvement with each.

So far I have been working on a project that has been a long time in the making, the CLR for the Boston Harbor Islands. The Boston Harbor Islands National & State Park consists of 34 individual islands, uses of which include: City of Boston Fire Department training, public recreation, education, water treatment, and more. I knew absolutely nothing about the islands when I arrived, but now I can name most of them in alphabetical order, and I have been able to visit Lovells, Calf, Little Brewster (happy birthday Boston Light!), Middle Brewster, Outer Brewster, Gallops, and Snake Islands. So far, my favorite is Outer Brewster.

I’m directing most of my focus to Volume II: Existing Conditions. This specific report and volume is unique due to the side-by-side comparison photographs as well as the detailed data tables which create a sort of hybrid CLR and abbreviated CLI in a single document.  The comparison photographs are from 1998/99 and matched by Margie Brown and former OCLP intern Ericka Duym in 2014/15, and serve as a great resource for demonstrating the immense visual changes to the landscapes due to erosion, changing management plans, tourism, or shifts in uses. The data tables outline aspects recorded as part of a CLI, as well as reporting on the history and chronology of the individual islands, which is a good source for quick references as well as a solid base for the creation of CLIs for individual islands later on.

Working on the Boston Harbor Islands CLR has been an immensely helpful way for me to get out and learn more about Boston, sharpen my fieldwork skills, and meet/collaborate within and outside of the NPS circle. I’m heading back out to the islands in mid-October with Ted Elliman and other botanists from the New England Wildflower Society to help conduct their invasive plant species survey. I will be navigating the botanists to plots which were surveyed by Ted in 2004 and are being re-surveyed.

Shouts out and many thanks to previous OCLP intern Ericka Duym for helping me iron out wrinkles with the CLR, Dinah Gewalt for the A+ tutorials on Trimbles, data dictionaries, GPS, and field work, Tim Layton for incredible patience with my computer and me, and everyone else at the State Street office for a warm welcome. I look forward to many more adventures and laughs at lunch!


Conducting fieldwork on Gallops Island.outerbrew

Incredible view on the southeast shore of Outer Brewster Island, worth almost getting lost in sumac, 10/10 would recommend, 5 stars on Yelp.


Vegetation making a new home in WWII-era barracks on Middle Brewster Island.

5 responses to “The Boston Harbor Islands and I

  1. Melissa, welcome to the the OCLP blog! You’ve had a very productive 4 weeks and captured the work very well. The images are great. I look forward to seeing these projects progress.

  2. Pingback: Springtime on Peddocks? | Designing the Parks·

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