Cooperatove Conservation Project

Boston Harbor Island National Park Area

A Model for Mixed-Ownership Parks

Location: Northeastern/Mid-Atlantic Region: Massachusetts

Project Summary: A new breed of National Park, owned and managed collaboratively by a broad range of public and private landowners, agencies, and partners.
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View of Boston from Snake Island. (Photo by Sherman Morss, Jr.)
Resource Challenge
The Boston Harbor Island National Park Area (NPA) was established  in 1996 with strong local support. The driving forces were state, city,  and community efforts to clean up Boston Harbor, to revitalize the  economy around downtown Boston’s Central Artery, and to realize  more effective, coordinated conservation management for Boston  Harbor’s islands.
Boston Harbor Island NPA does not own any of the 34 islands within  its boundaries, although sixteen of the islands were already part  of a State and local regional park system. The Commonwealth of  Massachusetts and the City of Boston co-own Spectacle Island, and  were in the early stages of restoring it as a major green space and park  centerpiece when the NPA was created.
Today, thirteen Congressionally-legislated members and a 28-member  Advisory Council manage the Park collaboratively. The National  Park Service facilitates voluntary, consensus-based, coordinated  management among stakeholders. The nonprofi t Island Alliance, a  neutral non-landowning entity, works closely with the Park Service to  generate private sector support to help enhance the park. Modeled  after the Golden Gate Conservancy, it is the fi rst non-profi t legislated  into a National Park’s management structure.
Examples of Key Partners
Boston Harbor Island NPA, USDI National Park Service, City of Boston, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, US Coast Guard, Island  Alliance, non-profi ts and local authorities
Results and Accomplishments
Unlike traditional parks, the Boston Harbor Islands NPA is carved  from state and locally-owned lands rather than federal ownership,  creating a seamless system of protected lands for public enjoyment.  Operating through committees, the Park has completed these  projects:
  • Opened the nation’s first “light station” (Boston Light, est. 1716) to regular public access programs.
  • Secured more than $7 million for the park through the Island Alliance.
  • Completed the fi rst comprehensive study of the Park’s economic potential in 2001.
  • Secured commitments for a “Harbor Park Pavilion” on the Rose Kennedy Greenway above Boston’s Big Dig to serve as a park gateway.
  • Developed curriculum and youth programs that serve 5,000 public school students per year.
  • Secured more than $2 million for new public docks on three key islands.
  • Teamed with Harvard University and Dr. Edward O. Wilson to conduct a complete inventory of invertebrates on the islands with more than $200,000 in support pledged to date.  
  • Continuing to restore Spectacle Island—a core park Island—   using volunteers 

A Park with multiple owners is managed collaboratively to deliver a National Park experience

Project Contact
Thomas B. Powers
Island Alliance



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