Opinion: Thompson Island is supposed to be open to the public, but that isnt happening – The Patriot Ledger

Posted: January 9, 2021 at 2:38 pm

The Patriot Ledger

Did you know there is a Boston Harbor Island you can walk to at low tide from Quincys Squaw Rock?

Thompson Island is a Boston Harbor Island that can be accessed at low tide by a large sandbar. This means you can walk from Nickerson Beach in Squantum, Quincy to Thompson Island. Manytimeseach month, the tide will be so low you can walk across the spit and visit the beaches surrounding Thompson Island for several hours. It is a beautiful way to spend time outdoors.

The law that allows people to walk the spit from Quincy to Thompson Island is called the Colonial Ordinance.The Colonial Ordinance reserved three specific and important rights of public use within the private tidelands for fishing, fowling, and navigation.

The permissible uses are interpreted by Massachusetts Court as 1) the right to fish on foot or from a vessel; 2) the right to navigate, including windsurfing and sailing; and 3) the right to hunt birds for sport on foot, which also covers birdwatching. Accordingly, the public has access to any so-called private beach or tideland area as long as they are legitimately engaged in fishing, fowling, or navigation.

In 2002, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the U.S. National Park Service paid $4 million to Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center to agree to a Grant of Conservation Restriction, which designated most of the east and west ends of the island asconservationareas, and protected them from development. Thompson Island is required to allow unescorted public access to theseconservationareas year-round via ferry, but this isnt happening.

In addition to preserving theconservationareas, the Conservation Restriction is also supposed to enhance public access of Thompson Island. In 2002, the year the Conservation Restriction Grant for Thompson Island Outward Bound was signed, there were 19,000 visitors to Thompson Island. This number included 5,600 participants in educational programs. This was according to the Boston Harbor Island General Management Plan. In 2012, when Marc Albert of the National Park Service did the Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center assessment, he noted there were only 128 visitors. He stated in his report, this was a problem that needed a solution.

Thompson Island is supposed to be open to the public, but this isnt happening. Instead, a very few Boston Public School children spend a bit of time there. Thompson Island is really being used to raise lots of money with corporate events. Arthur Pearson, CEO of Thompson Island Outward Bound,is paid an exorbitant amount of money as the head of anon-governmental organization.

There are twoseparate,but equally important issues. First, the Colonial Ordinance allows for citizens to walk on the spit between Quincy and Thompson Island. And walk the beaches as long as they are birding, fishing, or navigating. It would be important to carry either a camera, binoculars, or a fishing rod. Sadly, Thompson Island Outward Bound Island staff is illegally telling people to leave the beaches.I understand fromAlbert of the National Park Servicethat,the public is allowed to access the tidal areas. (Marc Albert email 10/2/20).

The second issue is the Conservation Restriction Grant that was signed in 2002.Thompson Island Outward Bound Education has not honored the Conservation Restriction and National Park Service and the Department of Conservation and Recreationare not enforcing the Conservation Restriction.Thompson Island does not pay taxes. They contribute nothing but providing a brief learning experience for Boston Public School children. Thompson Island Outward Bound is required to provide access to the island year-round.

It is time that Thompson Island Outward Bound be held accountable. It is time for Michael CreaseyatNational Park Service and James Montgomeryatthe Department of Conservation and Recreationto do their jobs.

People more than ever need a green space. Walking across the spit along the beaches around Thompson Island, according to Colonial Law, will provide this opportunity.This is an issue of environmental justice. Otherwise, the Boston Harbor Islands are only available if you have lots of cash for a boat ride.

Joan Delaney is a family nurse practitioner, life-long Quincy resident, and believes that a small group of people can bring about meaningful change.

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Opinion: Thompson Island is supposed to be open to the public, but that isnt happening - The Patriot Ledger

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