Urban Renewal Awards, Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor
One of 34 Boston Harbor Islands that dot the waterfront and are part of a National Historic Park, Spectacle Island had its heyday in the 1840s as a large gambling resort and brothel. As of late, the island was merely a dumping ground for garbage. Then someone had the brilliant idea to create a dike to contain the trash and use the dirt from The Big Dig to reshape the island, providing topsoil for planting trees and other shrubbery. Today, the heaping mound of soil has created the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard south of Maine. Leaving its smelly past behind, the 105-acre park has a trail system weaving through the interior, beaches to comb for sea glass, and public access by ferry. Local naturalist and Walden author Henry David Thoreau didn’t have Spectacle Island in mind when he spoke of preserving America’s “wild spaces,” but it’s refreshing to see good ole Yankee ingenuity at work.