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Bridge gone, but thanks to ferry, Camp Harbor View open

Campers filled the top deck of the ferry en route to Long Island for the first day of Camp Harbor View.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The ferry glided over Boston Harbor, carrying hundreds of city youths to their first day at Camp Harbor View.

In years past, campers made the trip by bus over the rickety Long Island Bridge. But that span was demolished after being condemned and shuttered in October. A boat ride is now the only way over.

On Long Island, a butterfly fluttered near the pool. Children in braces and braids gathered in circles, trying to remember one another’s names. They bellowed catchy repeat-after-me songs, giggling. In the background, glimmering Boston Harbor framed the city’s skyline.

For a while, the campers willingly submitted to the camp’s refrain: Have fun.


“It’s like family here,’’ said Deon Furtick, a 14-year-old from Jamaica Plain on his third year at the camp. “You don’t have to worry about people hating you. You can just communicate and talk things out.”

The fate of Camp Harbor View, many feared, would be entwined with the fate of the tumbledown bridge. Would the camp survive?

But founder Jack Connors vowed the four-week camp would continue for its ninth year. He would get the campgoers there — by boat.

“I feel very emotional, I feel proud, I feel like crying,’’ Connors said, standing under a pavilion on the island and watching the campers.

The fate of the Long Island Bridge, however, remains in limbo. Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration has not allocated money in the current budget to replace the bridge, which opened in 1951 and had been deteriorating for well over a decade.

At the recent opening of the city’s Southampton Street shelter for the homeless, a reporter asked Walsh whether the city had a plan for the bridge.

“No, not yet. We have a company looking at the bridge, who would design the bridge for us, and then we’ll make decisions how to move forward,’’ Walsh replied, according to a transcript provided by his press office.


Camp Harbor View campers play a variation of a soccer game during their first trip to Long Island since the bridge was torn down.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Camp Harbor View began July 2, 2007, as a day camp for Boston youths. Former mayor Thomas M. Menino had asked Connors to find a haven for children from communities plagued by violence.

Connors, a former advertising executive turned philanthropist, said he told Menino about a field on the island he’d seen as a child. Give me a lease on the land, and I’ll raise money for the camp, Connors recalled saying.

Connors said he has raised $60 million through the years, building and honing a refuge for campers that includes a swimming pool, a pavilion, and a great hall. The Boys & Girls Club of Boston runs the camp, which has a social worker and nurse on staff.

A recent camp fund-raiser gala netted $5.5 million in one night, Connors said.

“You read about the problems of inner cities all over the country,” Connors said. “But this is a city that is saying we have our problems, but . . . these kids are entitled to a safe and happy summer.”

About five years ago, Connors built a pier, at a cost of $5 million, a decision that now seems prescient.

Previously, buses picked up campers at 16 different Boys & Girls Clubs and community centers and drove them to Long Island.

Angelica Jones looked up at other campers boarding the ferry as they made their first trip to Long Island this year.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

On Tuesday, the buses dropped them off outside the World Trade Center Marine Terminal, where they boarded the Provincetown II ferry.


About 9:40 a.m., the ferry pulled up to the pier, spilling the roughly 400 campers onto Long Island. Connors said the round-trip cost for the ferry is $5,000 daily, and $3,000 for a backup boat.

The campers made their way to the lush lawn of the soccer field, forming large circles in groups of about 80. They spent the day getting to know one another, learning to talk above a whisper, beginning to let go.

“It’s very relaxed here, very cool,’’ said Mark Chester, a 14-year-old from the South End.

Greg Stoddard, the camp’s executive director, said the children come from all walks of life. Applications for campers were sent to homeless shelters, the Boston Police Department, and the Boys & Girls Clubs.

When they come to the island, the youngsters enliven it, filling it with noise and activity. Over the summer, they go sailing, swimming, and learn to paint. They build leadership skills. Over time, they learn to relax and drop their guard.

“The armor is gone,’’ Stoddard said. “These 14-year-olds, they need an armor. It’s so wonderful to see them take that off and play.”

Bryan Anthony Murray, one of the camp leaders, said he has been drawn to the camp since visiting as a football player at Boston College, and pledged the camp will be around for years to come.​

“This is a camp that adapts to all situations,’’ Murray said. “The bridge got taken down, and we’ve adapted. Now we are here, working and thriving.”


The camp was in jeopardy after the Long Island Bridge’s closure in October.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MeghanIrons.