Sunday, May 27, 2012

Polishing a jewel in Boston's treasury... Community Boating renovates and restores its front and back doors

Post No.: 2012-08.

The Photos:

Photo 1: Looking west from the footbridge near the Longfellow Bridge, CBI is in the middle-ground.

Photo 2: CBI's front door on the Esplanade, restored and repainted.

Photo 3: The rate schedule, now indicating a sliding scale of $1-$200 for 10-18 year olds.

Photo 4: If it's on the Esplanade, it's likely Mrs. Storrow had something to do with originally funding it, and CBI is no exception.

Photo 5: The fully replaced and improved dock space.

Photo 6: The new Dock House.

The Location: Community Boating, Inc., on the Charles River Esplanade. MAP.

Year of Urban Fabric Restoration: 2011.

The Story: It was a hot one yesterday in Boston, and your correspondent was lucky that it was his turn to take RTUF's Next Generation down to sailing class on the Esplanade. [The trip itself was somewhat poignant -- we took the Needham Line into town on the 6th to last Saturday on which weekend service will be offered for the foreseeable future. Service cuts needed to balance the MBTA's FY2013 budget will give this particular urban amenity the old heave-ho as of June 30th.] As I said, it was hot, but the breeze was blowing down on the Upper Basin as the red flag in the final photo attests. Being there yesterday morning reminded me that CBI recently undertook a really well-done renovation and restoration funded by a virtual cast of thousand including the Commonwealth (and the current landlord, the Department of Conservation and Recreation), The Esplanade Association, The Solomon Fund, the Mugar Foundation, and CBI itself. To this non-sailor's eye, it looks like they did what they needed to replace and greatly improve the dock space, which had been in pretty tough shape, built new structures (not only the dock house but also a new shed for storing windsurfing sails and and other equipment), and did some curating of the front entrance (new doors, restoration and repainting of the grillwork with the sailboat motif). Nothing earthshattering, but not inconsequential either, and something worth pointing out as one of those incremental, small changes that add up to vital signals that the participants in the urban ensemble that makes up any city or town have cared enough to put resources behind their physical plant in a way that furthers their mission and says they are here to stay.

And CBI isn't just any player in Boston's ongoing urban production. Its mission is really important, enough that the title of this blog post is not hyperbole. CBI's mission since its founding in 1946 has been the "advancement of sailing for all," originally by offering classes and access to the water for all kids between 10-18 for $1 per year (now based on a sliding scale up to $200 per year based on family income, but a great value at a huge discount regardless). With the new dock, CBI also bolstered its commitment to remove physical obstacles to sailing because the new dock provides better access and functionality for those with physical disabilities.

The founding and early history of CBI is itself a classic Boston story, summed up at the article linked here -- Sailing for All: Joe Lee and America's First Public Community Sailing Program. For your correspondent, high points of the article include the fact that the second story of the boathouse was added in the 1987 (you really can't tell just looking at the building), more than 45 years after the initial structure was built in 1941, as well as the story of bureaucractic turf battles and the careful application of class and ethnic distinctions by certain of the powers-that-be in the late 1930s and early 1940s to frustrate and delay the implementation of an idea whose time clearly had come. Luckily, the effort to create and sustain a gateway for everyone to use the Upper Charles River Basin's delightful watersheet has survived and thrived. To return this post to the personal, my father-in-law, a native of St. Ambrose's Parish in Dorchester, never tires of describing how he learned sailing at CBI starting as an 11 year-old in 1952. The twin facts that his grandchildren participate in the exact same program and that that program retains its core mission more than a half century later are worth celebrating.