STATE PROTECTS PUBLIC'S INTEREST IN BU SAILING PAVILION DECISION
Better Locations Identified in Independent Evaluation of Alternative Sites by Watchdog Group
Newton, MA... In a
major victory for the protection of public trust lands, State
Secretary of Environmental Affairs Bob Durand has rejected Boston
University’s (BU) preferred sites for a new sailing pavilion on the
Boston Esplanade finding instead that a site near Charlesgate will have
fewer environmental impacts and provide the greatest potential for
BU filed legislation last spring that would allow it to occupy 1½ acres of prized Esplanade parkland for construction of a 14,000 square foot sailing facility between the BU and Harvard Bridges near the Sherborn Street footbridge. BU’s proposed facility is triple the size of its current facility tucked in near the BU Bridge. Because riverfront parkland is held in trust for the citizens of Massachusetts, any change in use requires a two-thirds vote by the Massachusetts Legislature.
Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA), other environmental organizations and neighborhood groups successfully urged that BU’s bill not be considered until the proposal had undergone full environmental and public review. Critical to that review is an analysis of alternative locations, which BU had not performed prior to seeking legislative approval.
A recently completed independent site feasibility study by the consulting firm of Beals and Thomas, Inc., commissioned by CRWA, concluded that two sites -- one on the water downstream of the MIT boathouse on the Cambridge side of the river and one near Charlesgate on the Boston Esplanade-- are far superior locations for protecting the public trust nature of this historic and cherished parkland. Agreeing with CRWA’s study, Secretary Durand has told BU to focus on the Charlesgate site in its final environmental impact report.
“The Secretary’s decision confirms that when disposition of public trust land is at issue, an objective analysis of the full range alternatives must precede legislative action conveying the land to a private entity. It also confirms that the Secretary has the right and responsibility to select the best alternative, regardless of a proponent’s desires, when the public interest is at stake,” said CRWA’s Executive Director Robert L. Zimmerman, Jr. According to Zimmerman, “Durand’s decision ensures that public interests and benefits rather than private or institutional interests are paramount in the decision-making process.” Durand is also requiring BU to discuss the project’s final design in the context of the Metropolitan District Commission’s program to revitalize the parklands along the Emerald Necklace at Charlesgate and appropriate mitigation for the project’s impacts. BU should also confer with Mass. Historical Commission about design issues and the effect on the historic district.
Working closely with CRWA on this issue have been the Esplanade Association and Conservation Law Foundation. A coalition of groups, including Alliance of Boston Neighborhoods, Bay State Road Civic Association, Beacon Hill Civic Association, Charles River Conservancy, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental League of Massachusetts, the Esplanade Association, BU Environmental Students Organization, Boston GreenSpace Alliance, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Neighborhood Association of Back Bay, and Representative Paul Demakis, also met monthly to follow the sailing pavilion developments and offer advice and insights.
read the Secretary
Durand’s certificate on the proposed BU boathouse, visit www.state.ma.us/envir/mepa/.
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