A few weeks ago, in celebration of our 50th anniversary of working to cleanup and protect the river, the Neponset River Watershed Association (NepRWA) sponsored what will hopefully become our first annual Neponset RiverFest on the banks of the river at the Neponset II Park in Dorchester along the Neponset Greenway.
Perhaps more than any other activity I’ve been to so far, this event symbolized just how far the Neponset River has come since 1967 when NepRWA was founded.
It was a beautiful warm summer day. Hundreds of families stopped by to check out the Aquarium’s traveling tide pool, the Franklin Park Zoo’s animal exhibits, get some great food, cool off at the park’s splash pad, or take a free spin on the river in a canoe, kayak or stand up paddleboard with Paddle Boston. People from all walks of life were there and everyone had smiles on their faces.
Just a few years ago, this event would have been impossible. The beautiful park was a auto wrecking yard and warehouse. There was no canoe launch. Instead of thousands of people out enjoying the Neponset Greenway bike path every day, the only people who went to the river were a few hearty naturalists and ne’er do well teenagers stealing through holes in barbed wire fences to explore a forbidden zone along the waterfront.
During this year’s RiverFest, one adventurous member of the crowd, who had swum in the river in his youth when it was much dirtier than today, suddenly appeared in swim trunks and dove right in. When he returned from him impromptu swim, he declared the Neponset “beautiful for swimming.”
From the bond bill that NepRWA sponsored (unsuccessfully) to improve the lower Neponset way back in 1974 – through the ongoing efforts of the Neponset Greenway Council today – there have been dozens of community members, local environmental advocates, state legislators, state parks staff and other partners who have worked with extraordinary persistence to cleanup the river, open the waterfront to the public and turn the Neponset into a community resource that everyone can enjoy.
The rousing success of the first Neponset RiverFest was testament to their extraordinary success and harbinger of even greater things still to come.
Ian Cooke, Executive Director
August 8, 2017