BOSTON (CBS) – The 34 islands that make up the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area are often called the city’s hidden gems. Spectacle Island could well be called one of Boston’s rediscovered gems.
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This year marks the tenth anniversary of its massive restoration effort.
Dirt that was excavated during the Big Dig tunnel project was used to create walking trails and scenic viewing areas.
Susan Kane, Islands District Manager with DCR’s Division of Mass Parks, points with pride to the 37 acres that were added to Spectacle Island.
“It’s really an engineering feat. People come from all over the world to see how this was done,” she told WBZ NewsRadio 1030
Fifty-thousand people visit Spectacle Island annually.
Given its name because of its resemblance to eye glasses, the island has quite a checkered past.
“Spectacle Island was a dump for the city of Boston for more than five decades. It would combust spontaneously during the summer months, and was a burning eyesore that contributed greatly to the pollution in Boston Harbor,” Kane said.
Prior to the dump, the island served as a horse rendering plant.
There were other industrial operations as well, and at one time, the island hosted a brothel. There was a resort hotel and homesteads too.
Kane says sea glass brings in a lot of visitors now.
“You find pottery from all over the world. Boston’s restaurants and hotels would throw out china and glassware when they wanted to replace them, and the remnants often wash up along the island’s shoreline,” she said.
But, Kane discourages people from taking the sea glass.
“When the island reopened, we had crafts people coming ashore with bags ready to be filled. We want everyone to be able to enjoy it,” she said.
“The ebb and flow of the harbor tides bring in all kinds of treasures and you can get a good read on the city’s history in a very unique way.”
Spectacle Island has a snack bar open during the summer months. There is also a beach with a posted lifeguard.
Yoga classes are booked solid and functions are held on the island too.
At one point, along the North Drumlin trail, there is a pavilion dedicated to Boston Marathon bombing victim Krystle Campbell. She had operated the island’s snack bar.
Brendan Cunniffe is Spectacle Island’s year-round caretaker. He served as caretaker for Peddocks Island during last year’s brutal winter. This is his first year on Spectacle Island.
“There are quiet days,” he confesses. “You just have to stay busy and keep to your routine.”
He says reaction from people when they learn he lives on the island year-round ranges from jealousy to horror.
“It’s not a job everybody could do,” he says, but adds everyone can enjoy the island.
“When people who have lived in the area their whole lives come out here for the first time, it’s amazing to see their eyes light up.”
In part six, we’ll search for landmarks in Downtown Crossing.
Listen to Part 5