Monday, December 6, 2021

Our Better Beaches Program was Better than Ever!

In 2021, Save the Harbor leveraged nearly $300,000 in 2021 DCR funding, 2020 retained funds,  and money raised through the Harpoon Shamrock Splash to award Better Beaches grants to 67 organizations, individuals and creatives. The 2021 Better Beaches grantees put on 188 free programs and events on our region’s public beaches in Nahant, Lynn, Revere, Winthrop, East Boston, South Boston, Dorchester, Quincy, and Hull.

In preparation for the 2021 beach season, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay convened a public meeting of the Metropolitan Beaches Commission about race and equity on the Commonwealth’s public beaches and used our findings to build a more equitable grant process. 

Based on the community’s feedback and Save the Harbor’s values, $40,000 of the 2021 Better Beaches funds were set aside to address barriers in access and equity that community members of color, folks with disabilities, and queer people experience on our region’s public beaches. 

We directly addressed the community’s request for more diverse music and food, additional mobility mats and beach wheelchairs, and free life jackets on our region’s beaches by allocating additional funds to new and existing partners with plans to meet these needs. We also continued the two Anti-Racism program initiatives founded in 2020, Harbor Healing and Beats On The Beach, and engaged more new partners than ever before, with 31 of the 67 grantees being new partnerships.

In 2022, we aim to make the process even more equitable by introducing elements of participatory budgeting. We will be asking for community input at every step of the process, following the mantra "Your Beaches, Your Voice, Your Choice!". We can't wait to ear from you throughout the process and see you on the beach next summer! 

Friday, December 3, 2021

Metro Beaches Commission and Advocates Call for Better Beach Access for People with Disabilities

On Tuesday, November 30, at 10:00 AM, the Metropolitan Beaches Commission and Save the Harbor/Save the Bay convened a Virtual Public Hearing focused on improving access for people with disabilities on the Commonwealth’s public beaches in Lynn, Nahant, Revere, Winthrop, East Boston, South Boston, Dorchester, Quincy and Hull.

“The legislative and the community members of the Commission hope that this hearing will help us better understand the challenges facing people with disabilities on the metropolitan beaches,” said Chris Mancini, Executive Director of Save the Harbor/ Save the Bay as the hearing began. “We are looking forward to working together with DCR - and all of you here today - to develop strategies to improve access to these spectacular urban natural resources for everyone.” 

Among those who testified at the virtual public hearing, which was Co-Chaired by Sen. Brendan Crighton of Lynn and Rep. Adrian Madaro of East Boston, were Stephanie Cooper, Acting Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Andrea Gayle-Bennett of Lynn, Third Junior Vice Commander of the Disabled American Veterans Department of Massachusetts, Kristen McCosh, Commissioner of the Boston Disabilities Commission, and Chris Mancini, Executive Director of Save the Harbor/Save the Bay.

"For those of you who don't know me, I'd like to let you know that I use a power wheelchair due to a disability I acquired as a teenager," said Commissioner McCosh, who leads Boston's overall effort to ensure accessibility and inclusion for persons with disabilities. "But we don't all only strive for meeting bare minimum requirements. We strive for ideal accessibility, which really goes from accessibility to inclusion." According to McCosh, though there are still challenges to overcome, "we do have the political will and great staff and our city agencies and our state partners. The ADA was signed into law over 30 years ago. How can we go to the next step and really make sure that people with disabilities are included in every aspect of life?"

According to Acting DCR Commissioner Cooper, the pandemic "has taught us what we knew in our hearts: The critical importance of getting outdoors for our collective physical, mental and spiritual health." She underscored the Baker-Polito Administration's commitment to equity and inclusion, and pointed out that "DCR's Universal Access provides adaptive programming and equipment at our pools, skating rinks, beaches, of course, lakes and ponds. The idea is that everybody of all abilities can participate and enjoy themselves at our properties."

Investments in ramps, mobility mats and beach and floating wheelchairs
are critical to improving beach access for people with disabilities.

The Commission also heard from experts and advocates serving people with disabilities, including Tom McCarthy, Director of DCR’s Universal Access Program. Coleman Nee, ​​CEO of Triangle Inc., Kathy Lafferty, Executive Director of the South Boston Neighborhood House, Alex DeFronzo, Executive Director of the Piers Park Sailing Center in East Boston, Ellice Patterson, Executive Director of Abilities Dance Boston, and Andrea Gayle-Bennett, Third Junior Vice Commander of the Disabled American Veterans Department of Massachusetts.

Coleman Nee, ​​CEO of Triangle Inc. who has hosted "Beach:Ability" at Constitution Beach in East Boston as part of Save the Harbor/Save the Bay's Better Beaches program partnership with DCR thanked the Commission and Save the Harbor/Savethe Bay for their leadership on this issue. "I cannot stress enough the positive impact on mental health and spirits of those who attended Beach: Ability...our program participants love the beach and they love the ocean," said Nee. "In truth, these beaches are public assets and they shouldn't only be available to the disability community during an event once a year, they should be available all the time. We need additional investments, we need more walkways and ramps, we need proper equipment, we need mobi-mats, we need floating wheelchairs at every beach, and we need all bathrooms and snack stands to be ADA compliant."

Ellice Patterson, Executive Director, Abilities Dance Boston said building cultural understanding is "just as important as the physical access and the equipment to enjoy these beaches. Diverse and disabled beachgoers shouldn't have to fight to explain themselves. We should be able to participate in these spaces like everyone else." 

 Alex DeFronzo, Executive Director of Piers Park Sailing Center, whose Adaptive Sailing program is a national model, stressed the importance of inclusive programming. "The hard infrastructure for making the beaches accessible is extremely important, but perhaps more important is the human infrastructure of actually programming the beaches and getting groups of people out there. When there are Better Beaches  or Universal Access programs running, that's when the beaches feel most welcoming, most successful and most inclusive"

Kathy Lafferty, Executive Director of the South Boston Neighborhood House agreed, saying "When we offer a program on the beach, we want everyone to be able to participate. That means getting on the sand, near or in the water, and not just on the pavilion to watch. We are in this conversation because we want to be a part of the solution”

Andrea Gayle-Bennett of Lynn, Third Junior Vice Commander of the Disabled American Veterans Department of Massachusetts, said that when accessibility to the beach is limited for those with physical disabilities, "It turns them into spectators instead of participants."

"No one should ever be prevented from sitting on a public beach on a summer day, hearing the crash of the waves or the call of hungry seagulls, especially not because of a disability, much less someone who incurred that disability in service to our country," Gayle-Bennett said. "Public beaches should be for everyone to enjoy."

As the hearing drew to a close, MBC Co-Chair Sen Brendan Crighton of Lynn thanked Save the Harbor/Save the Bay and the dozens of community members who took part in the hearing, saying "The powerful testimony we heard today will help shape necessary improvements on the Commonwealth's public beaches to ensure that these resources are always accessible for all."

MBC Co-Chair Adrian Madaro shared that sentiment. “Our state beaches are public treasures that belong to all of us,” said Madaro. “We need to advance environmental justice and center diversity, equity, and inclusion so that people of all backgrounds, conditions, and abilities can enjoy them for years to come."

The Metropolitan Beaches Commission welcomes public participation and will gladly accept written testimony from all interested parties. Please email your comments to rodriguez@savethe

For more information about the hearing contact Save the Harbor's Executive Director Chris Mancini by email to or on his cell at (617) 909-6667, or their Director of Strategy & Communications Bruce Berman by email to or on his cell at 617-293-6243.

About the Metropolitan Beaches Commission
The Metropolitan Beaches Commission is a permanent Commission charged with making findings and recommendations to the Legislature and the Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) on ways to improve the metropolitan region's public beaches. It was established by the Massachusetts Legislature in 2006 and is led and managed by Save the Harbor/Save the Bay.  You can find more information about the MBC on Save the Harbor/Save the Bay's website, and download copies of our previous reports at

Late last spring the Commission decided to focus attention on ways to increase diversity, equity and inclusion on the Metropolitan Region’s public beaches, to improve access for people of color, people with disabilities, and people who may not speak English as their primary language.  In May, we heard from a diverse group of civic leaders and community members about ways in which we could increase diversity on the beaches and in our beach programming.

After the November 30th hearing on improving access for people with disabilities, in January of 2022 the MBC will hold a hearing on language barriers that affect public safety and enjoyment on our region’s public beaches.

Following that hearing, the Commission will host a Virtual Summit, at which they will present their preliminary findings to a broad and diverse audience of beach users to get their thoughts and input. Following the Summit, the Commission will share a report of their findings and recommendations with the Legislature, the Administration, DCR and the public.  It will serve as a roadmap for improving access and increasing diversity, equity and inclusion on our public beaches going forward.

For more information about the MBC or the hearing, please visit and follow the links to the MBC pages.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Public Policy and Environmental Advocacy

In 2021, with the support of government at all levels and our partners in Boston’s neighborhoods and the region’s beachfront communities from Nahant to Nantasket, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay made important progress on our environmental policy and advocacy agenda, which has two equally important goals.

Improved water quality in the region, with a continued focus on the overall health of the harbor and the bay, improved access to clean water and more accurate beach postings on those metropolitan beaches in densely populated communities that continue to be unsafe for swimming on as many as one out of every five days in a typical year.

In June we released our annual Beach WaterQuality Report Card and began a coordinated and comprehensive campaign to elevate our concerns about the filthy, bacteria laden discharge at Stacey Brook on King’s Beach in Lynn, and to roll back or revise recent changes to the already flawed beach flagging and posting protocols, which are less accurate than before.

Pollution from that outfall prevents low-income kids and from that dense and diverse community from enjoying a beach that should be a civic and recreational asset, not a liability.
As a result of our efforts, this summer both Lynn and Swampscott officials have publicly acknowledged their contributions to the problem and have identified what we believe is a workable solution. This month, with the support of Metropolitan Beaches Commission Co-Chair Senator Brendan Crighton, the Legislative Leadership of the Senate and the House, and the Baker-Polito Administration, Lynn and Swampscott secured $5 million from the Commonwealth to “jump -start” this important work.

More equitable and inclusive access to the harbor, the waterfront, the beaches and the islands.  This requires clean water and stronger physical connections to inland and upland communities of color and need, improved access for people with disabilities, and increased participation by people of color and those for whom English is not the primary language spoken in their homes in both city and state planning processes.

On the state level, Save the Harbor and the legislative leadership and community members of the Metropolitan Beaches Commission (MBC), which we help lead and manage for the Legislature, held hearings on equity, inclusion, diversity and better access to the region’s public beaches for people with disabilities are planning a third hearing - and a Summit for early 2022.

Though we understand that systemic change requires sustained effort, we have already begun to see improvements to public access for people of color and people with disabilities on the region’s public beaches and increased diversity at our public hearings, in our free Better Beaches Programs and on the MBC itself. This will continue to be a priority in 2022. If you would like to take part in the hearings and join us at the summit, email

At the city level, we are working closely with our partners in the community and the City of Boston’s planning and development agency, the Commonwealth’s DEP, and the private sector,  to make certain that Bostonians of every race and ability are included in the planning process and the governance of public spaces on the waterfront, and that our activation strategies for the waterfront and the watersheet are in service of that goal. 

As a result, we have begun to see improved physical connections like the South Bay Harbor Trail and the Nubian Shuttle, as well as programmatic connections and activation strategies that will bring more diverse events, programs and audiences to the waterfront, the Fort Point Channel and the Seaport.