After more than a year of negotiations, the final merger of The Boston Harbor Association and the Boston Harbor Island Alliance is set for April 1st into the newly created Boston Harbor Now. Announced Wednesday, at the helm of the new non-profit will be CEO and President Katherine Abbott, who is leaving the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston.
“After decades of hard work cleaning up the Harbor and bringing the Harbor Islands back to life, I am excited to be a part of an organization that will help plan a new future ensuring that Boston Harbor and its environs benefit all the residents of, and visitors to, the city and the region,” said new Boston Harbor Now CEO Kathy Abbott.
The merger follows the recent departure of TBHA’s Vivien Li, longtime public advocate for the harbor cleanup and Harborwalk, who left for a CEO opportunity at Pittsburgh’s Riverlife. The combination also reduces the multitude of Boston Harbor advocacy groups, although still leaves some overlap with Save the Harbor, Save the Bay which remains independent.
The announcement emphasizes the “parks” focus within Boston Harbor Now. CEO Kathy Abbott comes not only with botanical garden experience but was also head of the State Department of Conservation and Recreation during the Romney administration and former CEO of the Harbor Island Alliance which is the legislated non-profit partner of the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park. In a statement, the group said its new role will be “in activating the Harbor and the Islands.”
“We strongly believe that merging these two organizations into one new entity, Boston Harbor Now, will provide the region with the opportunity to develop with other stakeholders a strategic plan around the opportunities and challenges facing Boston Harbor and the Harbor Islands,” said Brian Dacey, interim Chairman of the Board of Boston Harbor Now.
Although climate change risks are mentioned among a list of priorities in the new group’s press release, it is not clear to what extent Boston Harbor Now will advocate on waterfront development and public policy issues such as rising sea levels. The latter was a focus of former The Boston Harbor Association under Vivien Li. Staff of both groups are expected to initially join the merged organization, including Islands Alliance head Phil Griffiths and TBHA Executive Director Julie Wormser.
The Barr Foundation is supporting the launch of Boston Harbor Now with $350,000, plus $80,000 in grant funding from the Catalyst Fund for Nonprofits. The trustees for Boston Harbor Now include Barbara Capuano, Raphael & Raphael LLP; Carol Churchill, Suez Energy North America; Brian Dacey, Cambridge Innovation Center; Richard Dimino, A Better City; Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, Northeastern University; Jamie M. Fay, Ft. Point Associates, Inc.; Robert Golledge, Golledge Strategies; Elizabeth Grob, VHB; Meaghan Hooper-Berdik, Turner Construction; Douglas McGarrah, Foley Hoag; Thomas McShane, Dewey Square Group; Liz Morningstar; J. Keith Motley, University of Massachusetts Boston; Shelly O’Neill, O’Neill & Associates; Bud Ris; Cathy Douglas Stone, Stone Family Foundation; Richard Walker, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; and Gov. William Weld, ML Strategies. The tagline for the organization is “Navigating Our Future.”